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United Nations Daily Highlights, 08-12-31

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From: The United Nations Home Page at <> - email:






Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A briefing on Gaza was held today with John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, and by video-link from Gaza, Karen AbuZayd, Commissioner-General of UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).


Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is holding daily intensive meetings with UN officials, who are on the ground in the region. He is also continuing to work the phones. His calls over the last 24 hours include those with Israeli Foreign Minister Livni and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He also held a

teleconference with the principals of the Middle East Quartet..

The Secretary-General will be on full alert over the coming days as he continues to do what he can to work towards a ceasefire.


The UNs Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, Maxwell Gaylard, today

said that, without the violence in Gaza stopping, it is extremely difficult to get food to the people who need it. In addition, the United Nations cannot assess where the most urgent needs are, and it is too dangerous for civilians to leave their homes to seek urgent medical treatment, buy supplies and help people in distress.

In reference to the Karni crossing between Israel and Gaza, Gaylard said, We desperately need Karni to open, today, to get wheat grain in. In that context, he noted that the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has no wheat grain for the 750,000 people who need it; its wheat grain warehouses are empty.

Gaylard added that fuel is needed so that Gazas power plant can resume its normal functions. He noted that Gazas hospitals are facing their largest number ever of trauma caseloads under some of the most adverse conditions imaginable. They must have reliable power, he stressed.

Gaylard noted that the United Nations is in hourly contact with the Israeli authorities and that both parties are offering each other cooperation. But while the Israelis have been responsive to specific requests, for which he expressed appreciation, the gravity of the current situation demands more, he emphasized. Today, we need that cooperation translated into real results on the ground, he said.

The Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report that all crossings from Israel into Gaza were closed today with the exception of Kerem Shalom, which was operating at partial capacity.

A total of 84 truckloads, including 34 for humanitarian aid agencies, were allowed entry. Included were 16 trucks of flour and high-energy biscuits for the World Food Programme (WFP) and 17 trucks of rice, medical supplies, sugar and candles for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

But the Karni conveyor belt remained closed, as did the Nahal Oz fuel pipelines. The Erez crossing also remained closed for all Palestinians, including medical cases. The Rafah crossing, between Gaza and Egypt, was open today for the import of humanitarian supplies and medical evacuations only.

For its part, the World Food Programme (WFP) will attempt to make a bread distribution tomorrow in Beit Hanoun.



The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has launched an appeal for $34 million as the needs of the population of Gaza continue to mount in the face of the ongoing military operation. This appeal is in addition to UNRWAs $275 million 2009 Emergency Appeal issued earlier this month for the occupied Palestinian territory.

Speaking from the Agencys Headquarters in Gaza, UNRWA Commissioner-General Karen AbuZayd said, In my eight years in UNRWA, the urgency of an appeal for the people here has never been so acute. I am appalled and saddened when I see the suffering around me. This appeal covers life-saving humanitarian requirements for a four-month period. I call on the international community to respond with the promptness and generosity demanded by the desperate situation in Gaza today.

The flash appeal will enable UNRWA to provide essential health supplies, food, cash assistance, materials for housing repair and fuel. These were already in short supply owing to the months of closure of Gazas borders and are now critically scarce. Also, at a time when winter has set in, this appeal will also allow UNRWA to respond to the growing shelter needs of an increasing number of Palestinian civilians displaced by damage to or destruction of their homes.

Air strikes have inflicted considerable damage to already fragile public infrastructure and erased Gazas public service capacity, thus making UNRWAs humanitarian interventions more crucial then ever, the Agency adds.

"Tomorrow, we will resume our food distributions which were suspended on 18 December, said AbuZayd. People are without the most basic food commodities and have suffered enough. If we are to meet the needs of our beneficiaries, who comprise about two thirds of Gazas 1.5 million residents, the crossings must be open on a permanent basis, including the Karni Crossing which is the only access point through which we can bring in wheat in adequate quantities to meet the requirements of people here.

Meanwhile, Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Secretary-Generals Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict,

said the situation in Gaza is unbearable for the civilian population and especially for children. Coomaraswamy reiterated her call to the Palestinian groups to take all necessary measures to prevent the involvement of children in political violence. She also announced her intention to visit the region to follow up on previous commitments in this regard.


The United Nations is pleased to confirm that 12,374 military personnel have been deployed to UNAMID (African Union/United Nations Hybrid operation in Darfur), representing 63 percent of the Missions authorized military strength of 19,555 personnel.

The Secretary-General applauds the efforts of UNAMID and troop-contributing countries in reaching this target in the face of serious difficulties, including the volatile security situation in Darfur. The Secretary-General notes that the sustained cooperation of the Government of Sudan during the past few months has been important in achieving this level of deployment.

To ensure that the Mission continues to grow and reach full strength, troop- and police-contributing countries will have to work together with the United Nations to expedite the deployment of all outstanding capabilities. At the same time, the active cooperation of the Government of Sudan will continue to be crucial.

The Secretary-General stresses that, as we go forward, an important requirement will be to consolidate the capabilities of the troops currently on the ground.

The Secretary-General remains concerned that the fighting in Darfur will continue, innocent civilians will suffer, and UNAMID and humanitarian personnel will remain under threat as long as the parties fail to seriously engage in political dialogue. In this context, the Secretary-General urges the parties to work with the Joint Chief Mediator towards a comprehensive political solution.



warning that the escalating conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is leading to further violations of childrens and womens rights. The agency is urging the world not to turn a blind eye to the plight of children and women there.

UNICEF reports that rampant sexual violence and exploitation are taking place with impunity in villages and sites for internally displaced persons, and the continued uprooting of people from their homes and shelters has increased the vulnerability of children to a multitude of child protection problems.

The agency is expressing particular concern that former child soldiers who have been reintegrated into their communities and are now being targeted and re-recruited. UNICEF and its partners are prepared to provide protection and assistance for children who escape or are released; theyre currently assisting 31 children who have fled the ranks of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA).

The World Food Programme

reports that it has completed the first round of emergency food distributions to more than 18,000 people displaced by recent LRA attacks in and around Dungu, in Orientale Province, near the Sudanese and Ugandan borders. WFP and its partners are on track to reach an estimated 755,000 displaced people across eastern DRC with monthly food rations in December.


The United Nations welcomes the success of the 29 December parliamentary elections in Bangladesh, which were conducted in a peaceful atmosphere. The United Nations congratulates the people of Bangladesh, whose interest in strengthening democracy in the country was reflected by the high voter turnout.

We acknowledge the critical role of the Election Commission in administering the electoral process in a transparent and professional manner, as highlighted by initial comments from domestic and international observers.We reiterate the need for political parties to work together in a spirit of reconciliation and compromise in the interest of facilitating a peaceful transition, and stress that such cooperation should include a constructive role for the opposition in Parliament.

The Secretary-General's High-Level Panel, which is visiting the country for the second time, has met with a wide range of interlocutors, including the Election Commission, domestic and international observers and political parties. Upon its return in early January, it will report to the Secretary-General on the conduct of the electoral process and developments in the immediate post-election period.


With the end of 2008, five of the

Security Councils ten elected members Belgium, Indonesia, Italy, Panama and South Africa are ending their terms.

On Thursday morning, Austria, Japan, Mexico, Turkey and Uganda will take their places and begin two-year terms on the Security Council.

Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

United Nations, S-378

New York, NY 10017

Tel. 212-963-7162

Fax. 212-963-7055

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