REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE
6 July 2012
Corinne Momal-Vanian, the Director of the UN Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing, which was also attended by Spokespersons for the World Trade Organization, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the UN Children’s Fund, the UN Refugee Agency, the International Organization for Migration and the UN Conference on Trade and Development.
Jens Laerke of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that the Syria Humanitarian Bulletin number 3 had been published and was available. The bulletin highlighted that there had been increasing internal displacement in Syria over the past couple of weeks – for instance to central Damascus – and that many people were being displaced for the second time. Displacement from Deir-es-Zor towards Hassekeh and Ar-Roqqa in the north-east of the country had also been recorded, and there was continued movement of people from Hama, Idleb and Al-Raqqa towards Aleppo.
The bulletin indicated that the Government had allowed seven international NGOs – who had already been in Syria to help Iraqi refugees in Syria – to provide assistance to unrest-affected Syrians. Some of these international NGOs had begun distributing hygiene supplies, medical assistance and other essential items to affected Syrians.
Meanwhile, the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator had led negotiations to engage national NGOs as implementing partners in areas where UN agencies could not directly reach people in need, including Homs, Deir-ez-Zor and Douma. More than 1,000 such NGOs had been registered by Syrian authorities.
Asked about the results of the agreement with the Syrian Government, Mr. Laerke confirmed that things have changed. Part of the agreement precisely related to the distribution of aid through international NGOs. Another advance was the identification of humanitarian hubs in four locations in Syria; progress had not been as fast as the UN would have wished, but places had been identified and the work was ongoing. The bulletin contained concrete examples of programmes which were being implemented and people who were being assisted.
Responding to a question about Iraqi refugees, Mr. Edwards said that a UNHCR assessment at the start of this crisis had found that about 110,000 Iraqi refugees were in Syria, while a more recent assessment had shown that the number had lowered to about 87,000 Iraqi refugees in Syria. Thousands of refugees had also left Syria for Iraq, mostly the Kurdistan region, and many people had also gone to Jordan.
Mr. Laerke said that twenty-four cases of suspected cholera had been reported in Gao, northern Mali. Samples had been sent to the capital Bamako to identify the strain and confirm whether it was cholera. This was of great concern as continued unrest severely limited humanitarian access to the area.
The World Health Organization, the International Committee of the Red Cross and NGO partners had responded, including by sending cholera response kits to the region. Humanitarian partners and the Mali Ministry of Health had already pre-positioned health kits, and sensitization activities were on-going to make sure that people and health workers were aware of the implications and knew how to protect themselves.
Marixie Mercado of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that UNICEF today expressed grave concern over the situation in northern Mali, where evidence shows children are being killed or injured by explosive devices and recruited into armed groups amid reports of rape and sexual abuse.
The evidence gathered since the end of March shows that at least 175 boys (ages 12-18) have been recruited into armed groups; at least 8 girls were raped or sexually abused; and two boys ages 14 and 15 were killed in separate incidents related to unexploded ordnance, and 18 children were maimed.
The closure of the vast majority of schools across the region is further cause for concern, affecting up to 300,000 children in basic education alone. Children out of school are at a higher risk of recruitment, violence and exploitation.
The numbers are reason for alarm especially because they represent only a partial picture of the child protection context in the north – an area where access for humanitarian workers is limited.
UNICEF is working with local partners in the conflict-affected regions of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu as well as the bordering region of Mopti to strengthen communities’ ability to protect children – how to identify and support separated children, raising public awareness about risks for children, including recruitment into armed groups, and promoting education.
The unrest in northern Mali comes at a time when severe nutritional crisis unfolds across much of the Sahel, which is now at the peak of the precarious “lean season” between harvests. Some 560,000 young children in Mali are at risk of acute malnutrition this year, including between 175,000 and 220,000 who require life-saving treatment.
The vast majority of malnourished children live in the southern parts of the country, but conditions in the north have sharply reduced access for families to food, water and basic health care. More than 330,000 people, a fifth of them children, have fled their homes, with 150,000 internally displaced inside Mali, and over 180,000 seeking refuge in neighbouring countries.
UNICEF has provided emergency health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene and household supplies to partners working in Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal, and is reaching children with vaccinations, nutritional supplements and deworming medication wherever possible.
Across the country, over 70,000 children have been treated for acute malnutrition since the beginning of the year, and in the past week UNICEF and partners supported the national health authorities in reaching almost 6 million children with polio vaccinations, vitamin A supplements and deworming medication.
Additional funding is critical – just 21 per cent of UNICEF Mali’s US$58 million appeal for 2012 has been met, and just 10 per cent of the child protection target has been reached.
Ms. Momal-Vanian added that the Security Council had yesterday adopted resolution 2056 about the situation in Mali, in which it expressed serious concern about the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country.
UNHCR and partners to examine improving resettlement for refugees in need
Adrian Edwards of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said that UNHCR and its partners were meeting between Monday and Wednesday of next week in Geneva to look at ways to better help the 859,300 refugees globally for whom resettlement was the only possible solution to their plight.
The eighteenth Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement would look at enhancing resettlement as a solution for refugees and as mechanism for burden sharing between countries; improving the ways in which resettlement works, with a view to reducing the time taken for considering cases for resettlement; and improving reception and integration of resettled refugees.
The meeting would also look at how in certain priority situations resettlement can be used more strategically to provide better protection to larger groups of refugees who could not otherwise be resettled. With regard to reception and integration of resettled refugees, UNHCR and its partners were expected to discuss strengthened cultural orientation programmes, enhanced support for post arrival services, and reinforced pre-departure preparations. Capacity-building through twinning arrangements between resettlement countries would be explored. The meeting would also give a voice to resettled refugees to share their experiences relating to their integration process and how they had contributed to welcoming new arrivals.
Globally, there were just 81,000 resettlement places each year offered among some 26 States, meaning that in any year only one-in-10 persons needing resettlement would have an opportunity to be resettled.
Resettlement is one of three main solutions for refugees (the other solutions being voluntary repatriation, and integration into the country of first asylum) and was an integral part of comprehensive solutions strategies in many UNHCR operations.
Over the past five years, UNHCR, working with resettlement States, NGOs, and other partners, had been able to use resettlement to help 330,000 refugees resume their lives. In 2011 UNHCR submitted 92,000 refugees to countries for resettlement, and 61,649 refugees had departed with UNHCR’s help to 22 countries. Based on current trends, by country of origin, Somalis, Iraqis, Afghans, and Congolese were expected to be the major refugee populations over the coming years with higher resettlement needs.
A press briefing would be organized, said Mr. Edwards.
IOM Rushes Emergency Supplies to Remote Chadian Town to Aid Returning Migrants
Jumbe Omari Jumbe of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that IOM and the Chadian Red Crescent were rushing relief assistance to Faya Largeau, a remote northern town in Chad, where up to 300 Chadian migrants had arrived from Libya in the past two days. The 300 were part of a group of 1,000 Chadian migrants whom the Libyan authorities had returned to Chad for being in the country without proper documents.
According to their accounts, taken when they arrived in the town, some had been in detention centres and others had decided to return home as a result of the latest tribal clashes in southern Libya. They said that they had been brought from different towns in Libya to the town of Gatroun in southern Libya, from where they had started their journey.
They further told IOM that two of their colleagues had died of unknown causes during the long and arduous journey to the Chadian border. At least one truck carrying approximately 60 migrants broke down in the desert between Zouarke, a town on the border with Libya, and Faya Largeau, 600 km south-east of Zouarke. An ambulance had been sent by the Chadian authorities to the site of the breakdown to rescue the sick and the vulnerable. The crew would also repair the broken truck.
The majority of migrants said they were from Abeche and Goz Beida in eastern Chad. The rest were from Mao in the west and from the capital, N’Djamena.
On Tuesday, 3 July the Chadian authorities had asked IOM for an urgent assistance to meet the basic needs of the arriving Chadian migrants, including the provision of food, non food items, and medical care including psychosocial support, as well as secondary transportation from Faya Largeau to other final destinations in the country.
IOM had already set up 40 tents in its old transit centre at Faya Largeau for the temporary accommodation of arriving migrants and for the provision of humanitarian assistance, registration and preparations for transport to final destinations in the country.
IOM Director General Swing to Visit Senegal
Mr. Jumbe said that IOM Director-General William Lacy Swing would make an official visit to Dakar, the Senegalese capital, on Monday 9 July. During the visit he would attend a meeting of the Migration Dialogue for West Africa (MIDWA), organized by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The meeting aimed to reinforce MIDWA as a sustainable ECOWAS regional consultative process on migration by developing detailed operating procedures and identifying current weaknesses that needed to be addressed.
Ms. Momal-Vanian said that the Human Rights Committee would commence its next three-week session on Monday, during which it would examine reports submitted by Armenia, Iceland, Kenya, Lithuania and the Maldives. The Committee would start reviewing the report of Iceland on Monday afternoon, to be followed by Lithuania and the Maldives later in the week. A background release had been distributed yesterday.
Ms. Momal-Vanian said that Rolando Gomez of the Human Rights Council would shortly disseminate the updated draft resolution on Syria, on which the Council would vote around noon today. Other resolutions to be considered included those on Mali and Eritrea.
Competition Law and Policy Expert Group
Catherine Sibut-Pinote of the UN Conference on Trade and Development said that the Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Competition Law and Policy would meet for its twelfth session from 9 to 11 July in Geneva, Room XVII of the Palais des Nations.
The Intergovernmental Group of Experts was a standing body established to monitor the application and implementation of the UN Set, which provided a framework for the exchange of best practices, recognized the development dimension of competition law and policy, and provided for equitable rules for the control of anti-competitive practices.
At its current session, the Group of Experts would review competition law and policy in Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Ankai Xu of the World Trade Organization (WTO) said that the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures Committee would be meeting on Tuesday, 10 July. On the same day there would also be a Dispute Settlement Body meeting followed by a briefing in the afternoon, as well as Seychelles membership negotiations. On Wednesday the Liberia membership negotiations would be held, and on Thursday the Laos membership negotiations. On Friday, 13 July trade and development negotiations would take place.
Ms. Xu said that WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy would meet with the World Spirits Alliance on Tuesday, 10 July. The day after he would lunch with former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and meet with the Liberian Trade Minister and Niall Meagher of the Advisory Centre on WTO Law.
Ms. Momal-Vanian said that Ambassador Laura Dupuy Lasserre, the President of the Human Rights Council, would give a press briefing on the conclusion of the Council’s twentieth session today at 1.30 p.m. in Press Room 1.
Journalists were also invited to a human rights meeting organized by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (Room XXIII at 1 p.m.)