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United Nations Daily Highlights, 08-09-16
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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY MARIE OKABE
FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
UN HUMANITARIAN MISSION TO VISIT SOUTH OSSETIA AND OTHER AREAS
A humanitarian assessment mission, led by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and comprising representatives of key UN humanitarian agencies, viz., the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) and a representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), will visit South Ossetia and other areas affected by the recent conflict, including Gori, as well as Tbilisi, from 17-20 September.
The objective of the mission is to gain first-hand knowledge of the humanitarian and human rights situations and needs on the ground, including the position of those displaced by the conflict and other vulnerable groups. The results of the mission will feed into the revision of the humanitarian Flash Appeal, launched on 18 August. The mission has been coordinated with the Russian and Georgian authorities and will visit Moscow, South Ossetia and Tbilisi.
The United Nations is also planning a broader fact-finding mission to the region.
GEORGIA CONFLICT CAUSED FARMERS TO LOSE MUCH OF THIS YEARS HARVEST
Assessment teams from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) report that, in the so-called buffer zone north of the town of Gori, most villagers who live close to Gori appear to have returned to their homes. But deeper inside the buffer zone, the rate of return is considerably lower, since beatings, looting and arson by marauding militias have created an atmosphere of fear and insecurity.
UNHCR reports that the destruction of buildings and houses is not as widespread as was initially feared. But the communities, which are largely dependent on agriculture, have lost 70 to 80 per cent of this years harvest -- because of restricted irrigation water from South Ossetia, crop damage from heavy military equipment passing through fields, and the continued presence of landmines.
Since the local gas pipeline is no longer functioning, the price of firewood has risen by 50 per cent. Also, there are no health services inside the buffer zone.
HUMAN RIGHTS CHIEF CONCERNED BY SHARP RISE IN AFGHAN CIVILIAN CASUALTIES
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay
expressed serious concern Tuesday, as new figures released by her office showed a sharp increase in the number of civilians killed in Afghanistan during the first eight months of 2008, compared to the same period the previous year.
The human rights team attached to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) recorded a total of 1,445 civilian casualties in the first eight months of 2008, an increase of 39 percent compared to the same period in 2007, when there were 1,040 conflict-related deaths.
August was a particularly deadly month, with 330 civilians killed, including up to 92 civilian deaths reported during an operation involving Afghan and international military forces in Shindand. This is the highest number of civilian deaths to occur in a single month since the end of major hostilities and the ousting of the Taliban regime at the end of 2001, Pillay said.
Exactly 800 killings or 55 percent of the total number of civilian deaths recorded in the first eight months of 2008 are attributed to the Taliban and other insurgent forces. Suicide attacks and improvised explosive devices, used extensively by the armed opposition, were the cause of 551 civilian deaths.
Asked about follow-up from the Secretary-General to the reports on civilian casualties in Afghanistan, the Spokeswoman noted that the Human Rights Office in UNAMA and Special Representative Kai Eide had issued statements about civilian casualties and that the Secretary-General had also made clear his concerns on that matter.
She added that Eide and the Human Rights Office are following up on the issue and are in touch with the relevant parties.
U.N. STAFFERS RELOCATE WITHIN SRI LANKA
In Sri Lanka, most of the remaining United Nations staff today was relocated from Kilinochchi to Vavuniya, in compliance with the Governments request.
So far, 29 staffers have moved - of whom 21 are Sri Lankan nationals and eight are international staff. All are now in Vavuniya, joining colleagues who had been relocated earlier last week. The number of international non-governmental organization staff who were relocated today is 13, comprising of 10 national and 3 international staff.
Twenty-one UN national staff still remain in Kilinochchi. These are staff the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) did not give passes to, or who chose to stay with families who could not get passes to move.
With the UN's continuing commitment to and concern for the civilians of the Vanni, senior staffers are in place to mount humanitarian operations from Vavuniya.
U.N.-BACKED SECURITY CONTINGENT STARTS RECONNAISSANCE MISSION IN CHAD
The UN-backed Integrated Security Contingent of the Chadian army, which is tasked with the protection of refugees and internally displaced persons in eastern Chad, has begun a reconnaissance mission in the region. That is according to the Mission in Chad and the Central African Republic (MINURCAT), which says that some 70 troops of the contingent will tour six districts, including Abeche and Goz Beida.
This is the first reconnaissance mission by the Security Contingent ahead of its full deployment. To date, the UN Mission has trained some 320 members of the Contingent; it intends to train another 500 soon.
U.N. AGENCIES FIGHT CHOLERA OUTBREAK IN ZIMBABWE
UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and their humanitarian partners are responding to a cholera outbreak that is reported to have claimed the lives of 11 people and infected 80 others in the outskirts of Zimbabwe's capital, Harare. The outbreak was reported earlier this month.
UNICEF, working closely with local authorities, non-governmental organizations and WHO, has established two cholera treatment centers. The clinics are mainly managed by Médecins Sans Frontières.
Lack of clean water for domestic use fuelled the spread of the cholera. Sewer line blockages are common in the affected area, resulting in numerous incidents of sewage flowing in open drains along the streets.
Temporary measures have been put in place to address water shortages in the most affected area. The trucking of 30,000 liters of drinking water is being done daily and will continue for the duration of the outbreak.
UNITED NATIONS. RAMPS UP AID DELIVERIES IN HURRICANE-HIT HAITI
The Secretary-General Special Representative for Haiti, Hedi Annabi, and the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) in that country are continuing to work out logistical and security capacity available to help deliver humanitarian aid to the population in all regions affected by recent hurricanes and ensuing floods.
The Mission says it is encouraged by the solidarity shown by political actors, the private sector and the Haitian diaspora. This past weekend, Haitian-born performing artist Wyclef Jean and actor Matt Damon visited the towns of Gonaives and Cabaret, two of the hardest-hit regions.
The stars handed out much-needed food and other emergency assistance goods. They said that their goal in visiting the region was to get first-hand impressions of the extent of the damage wrought on the island nation by the flooding. They also sought to receive information likely to help them collect funds and improve their assistance efforts.
Meanwhile, the amount of food being sent to tens of thousands of people on the storm-ravaged island of Haiti has tripled over the past week as the World Food Programme (WFP) has accelerated its hurricane response.
Working alongside UNICEF the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and MINUSTAH, WFP has ramped up aid deliveries since 14 September, with 1,000 tons of rice, beans, cooking oil, fresh water and other supplies delivered across the country.
The increase means that WFP has supplied enough food to feed 217,000 people since the relief operation was launched.
TRADE CHIEFS CALL FOR DOHA AGREEMENT
The heads of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) today called for a conclusion of the now-stalled Doha trade negotiations.
Speaking at UNCTADs annual Trade and Development Board, they stressed that reaching such an agreement would not only bring direct gains but also inject confidence and order into shaken economies and financial markets.
They noted that stable trade is vital for economic progress in poor nations, and requires a supportive international banking and financial climate.
OZONE HOLE OVER ANTARCTICA BIGGER THAN LAST YEAR
Today is the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer. In a
message, the Secretary-General notes that decisive action, under the Montreal Protocol, has resulted in the banning of substances (such as chlorofluorocarbons) that both deplete the ozone layer and contribute to climate change.
It may take 50 years or more for the ozone layer to fully recover, he notes, but the lesson is that by acting on one challenge, we also act on many others. The Secretary-General urges governments to move forward on a wide range of environmental challenges and reach a decisive new agreement on climate change.
In related news, the World Meteorological Organization
says the ozone hole over the Antarctic this year is already larger than at its peak last year. Amid other worrying trends, WMO is warning of potential delays in any expected recovery of the ozone layer.
Meanwhile, several UN agencies have launched a new education pack for secondary schools. Entitled High sky, it features the characters Ozzy and Zoe Ozone. Through role-playing exercises, students learn simple ways to protect the ozone layer and safely enjoy the sun.
HUMAN RIGHTS RAPPORTEURS PLAY ESSENTIAL ROLE: The Spokeswoman noted, in response to a question, that today the Human Rights Council heard from the Special Rapporteur for Sudan, Sima Samar, who also held a press conference. She is independent, Okabe noted, adding, in response to a question on her mandate, that the Rapporteurs are nominated by the Human Rights Council and play an essential role as eyes and ears on human rights situations around the world.
BOOK OUTLINES BAN KI-MOONS VISION FOR UNITED NATIONS: Asked about a small blue book issued recently on the Secretary-Generals messages, the Spokeswoman said that the book outlines the Secretary-General's vision for the UN in 2008 and beyond, which he had been conveying to world leaders and the press. The easy-to-read booklet makes the message available to staff around the world. She noted that staff members and interns were handing out the blue books, which had also been available at a recent management retreat in Italy, to staff at UN Headquarters. [As outlined in book, the Secretary-General is seeking to achieve three guiding objectives during his tenure: delivering results for people most in need, security global goods and creating a stronger United Nations through full accountability.]
MUSIC STARTS JOIN MESSENGER OF PEACE PAVAROTTI MEMORIAL CONCERT FOR AFGHAN REFUGEES: A special
concert and memorial ceremony will take place in Petra, Jordan, next month. The event will pay tribute to UN Messenger for Peace Luciano Pavarotti, who died one year ago, and also raise funds for projects run by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme in Afghanistan. Stars of both classical and pop music are taking part in the October 11th and 12th event. The line-up includes Sting, Andrea Bocelli, and many others.
Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
United Nations, S-378
New York, NY 10017
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