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United Nations Daily Highlights, 09-02-25
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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY MARIE OKABE
DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
BAN KI-MOON: PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN ZIMBABWEAN PARTIES NEEDS TO BE NURTURED
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met for almost two hours today with South African President Kgalema Motlanthe and other government officials, as he started his week-long African trip with a stop in South Africa -- his first official visit to that country as Secretary-General.
The Secretary-General and the President discussed a wide range of political issues including Zimbabwe, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and South Africa's role in peacekeeping operations. The Secretary-General also stressed the leading role played by South Africa in engaging non-industrialized countries on the global threat of climate change.
Speaking to the press afterward, the Secretary-General
said that the partnership between the Zimbabwean parties will need to be nurtured. He said that the United Nations is ready to ensure that the enormous challenges confronting the Zimbabwean people are effectively addressed. But he warned that he remains concerned about reports of arrests and detention of opposition activists and human rights defenders, and that he hopes that these people will be freed as soon as possible.
He added that the United Nations will support nationally owned stabilization and recovery programmes to deal with the cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe.
The Secretary-General and his wife, Ban Soon-taek, later had a private meeting with former President Nelson Mandela and his wife at the Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg.
Asked about reports that a group of Pemba elders intended to disrupt the Secretary-Generals visit to Tanzania, the Spokeswoman said that she was aware of the reports but had not seen anything that would affect the Secretary-Generals travel plans.
U.N. HUMANITARIAN MISSION FINDS GRAVE SITUATION IN ZIMBABWE
The UN Humanitarian Mission to Zimbabwe led by the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Catherine Bragg, and made up of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the World Food Programme, has concluded its mission to that country, and the mission reports that it found that humanitarian needs in the country remain grave.
Despite tremendous effort to contain one of the worlds worst cholera outbreaks in recent times, major challenges remain. There are areas, the mission said, where the results of our concerted efforts can be seen in declining number of new infections, but there are many places which have not been reached with the required services, and where cholera continues to spread.
Food security is another major issue, the team added. A growing number of households are reducing the number of meals they have per day. There will be a need for continued food assistance throughout 2009. The scale of the needs will be determined by upcoming assessments.
Farmers must obtain all the agriculture inputs they need for the next planting season, which begins in September/October. Otherwise, next year could be like this one, in which seven million people need food aid.
The mission said that its discussions with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and a number of cabinet ministers were positive, and the mission received assurances of full cooperation. OCHA said that the international community has been very generous to the people of Zimbabwe, and they may receive requests for additional resources based on new assessments of the evolving situation.
The Secretary-General, speaking to reporters in South Africa today,
said that he expects to receive a report from Catherine Bragg on her recommendations on how to mobilize more humanitarian assistance and deal with refugee issues.
COLOMBIA: HUMANITARIAN CHIEF MEETS WITH INDIGENOUS & AFRO-COLOMBIAN COMMUNITIES
Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes is wrapping up his
visit to Colombia today with a meeting with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.
Yesterday, Holmes traveled to northwestern Colombia, where he met with indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, whose lives have been affected by floods, landmines, displacement, and violence related to conflict and drug trafficking.
Having received more than eight million dollars so far this year, Colombia is currently the fifth largest recipient of money from the UNs Central Emergency Response Fund in 2009. We have more on that upstairs. And of course, John Holmes will be able to brief you in person when he comes to the noon briefing this Friday.
U.N. ENVOY HOLDS TALKS ON WESTERN SAHARA WITH REGIONAL LEADERS
The Secretary-General's Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, traveled today from Algiers to Madrid, continuing a trip which has taken him previously to Rabat and Tindouf, and will continue in Paris and Washington.
Ross spoke to reporters before departing Algiers, where he said he held three days of "intensive, frank, and useful discussions" including with President Bouteflika and with the Minister of Foreign Affairs. "These discussions dealt with Algerias position toward the Western Sahara issue and the best means to resume the negotiating process for which the Security Council has called between the Kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario Front to find a just and lasting political solution to which both parties agree and that provides for self-determination for the Saharawi people," he said.
Ross said that at this stage of his first trip as the Secretary-General's Personal Envoy he had "arrived at a clear understanding of the positions and points of view of the two parties and one of the neighboring states and have found them to have a sincere desire to continue down the road and support my efforts." He added that he intends to visit Mauritania at the earliest possible opportunity.
SENEGALESE PEACEKEEPERS ARRIVE IN DARFUR
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has indicated that the total number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have arrived in recent weeks in Zam Zam camp in North Darfur has exceeded 15,000. IDPs are continuing to arrive each day following fighting in several South Darfur towns. Due to the large influx, the provision of water to camp residents is of critical concern, says OCHA.
The African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID)
says an additional 150 Senegalese peacekeepers arrived today in El Fasher, North Darfur, to bring the total number of members in the Senegalese infantry battalion to 834.
The principal duties of the battalion, which is based in El Geneina, West Darfur, include conducting patrols to enhance security and encourage confidence within the local population, and conducting escorts for humanitarian convoys.
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1769 (2007) authorized the deployment of up to 19,555 military personnel, including 360 military observers and liaison officers, and up to 3,772 police personnel and 19 formed police units comprising of up to 140 personnel each. To date, the total number of military forces deployed in Darfur totals 12,753.
The Senegalese battalion was part of the original troops that transferred from AMIS to UNAMID on 31 December 2007.
SOME 60,000 SOMALI CHILDREN SEVERELY MALNOURISHED, NEED IMMEDIATE TREATMENT
The United Nations today issued an alert to donors concerning two regions in southern and central Somalia. In that alert, the UN warned that, without immediate funding for nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene operations, the already critical malnutrition and disease levels in the country will worsen.
According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there are already more than 200,000 acutely malnourished children in Somalia. Some 60,000 of them are suffering from severe malnutrition and need immediate treatment in order to survive.
The current crisis has been brought on by poor rains, crop failure, the depreciated Somali shilling, and security threats against relief agencies, OCHA says. We have more on that upstairs.
CYPRUS LEADERS MEET UNDER U.N. AUSPICES
The Greek Cypriot leader, Dimitris Christofias, and the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mehmet Ali Talat, met today under UN auspices in Nicosia.
Speaking to the press afterwards, the Secretary-Generals Special Representative for Cyprus, Tayť-Brook Zerihoun, noted that the leaders had held discussions on the issue of property and had decided to continue these discussions next Thursday, 5 March.
Following the property talks, they will move on to discussions on matters concerning the European Union.
SRI LANKA CONFLICT LIMITS ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE FOR TENS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE
As the ongoing conflict in Sri Lanka places the health of tens of thousands of people at risk from insecurity and limited access to health care, the World Health Organization is calling for a rapid health needs assessment, improved preventive and curative care, and better coordination among all health partners.
The health sector is seeking $7.4 million in the Common Humanitarian Action Plan for Sri Lanka for health care for internally displaced persons and host communities in affected areas, of which WHO is seeking $4.5 million.
Under WHOs leadership, and with support from UNICEF, coordination meetings are held with health partners.
WHO adds that critical understaffing in the health sector has reduced health care for many people while insecurity and population displacement are affecting patient referrals.
FOOD PRICES COULD GO DOWN DUE TO BETTER RICE PRODUCTION
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has
predicted that food prices could go down this year thanks to better-than-expected rice production.
Much of the global production gains will be seen in Asia, where rice producing countries anticipate bumper harvests around May. Africa is also forecasting exceptional results, due to government support and new high-yielding seed varieties. As a result, rice imports to Africa are now expected to decline to their lowest level since 2004.
But the FAO has also warned that the global economic slowdown could outweigh the gains for the poorest of the worlds rice consumers, because of falling incomes and rising job insecurity.
INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY WORKING TO IMPROVE GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL ARCHITECTURE
Asked about the UN response to concerns raised about the UNs environmental architecture in a report by the Joint Inspection Unit, the Spokeswoman said that the report is not confidential. According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP, it was made available to Governments at the first opportunity, and has already been presented by the primary author to governments.
The Chief Executives Board (CEB), Okabe said, has also commenced a process of internal consultations across the system in preparing a response to the system-wide recommendations.
The General Assembly has also grappled with the topic for more than two years, and is now seeking the inputs of environment ministers for a way forward.
The Spokeswoman said that the report was presented to the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum last week, which took the following decision: "Governments decided that a special group of developed and developing countries ministers 'or high-level representatives' be established to develop a set of options aimed at improving the way the world's environmental architecture is run in order to streamline and boost the ability of the global community to tackle persistent and emerging environmental challenges."
Asked about the Secretary-Generals own response, the Spokeswoman noted the role being played by the CEB. She added the Secretary-General chairs and meets regularly with CEB to coordinate and streamline the work of the entire UN system on issues of common concern and interest.
DRUG-RESISTANT PARASITES COULD HINDER FIGHT AGAINST MALARIA: The World Health Organization (WHO) announced today that the emergence of drug- resistant parasites at the Thailand-Cambodia border could seriously undermine progress in the global fight against malaria. The parasites have been detected in an area where workers walk for miles every day to clear forests. WHO is warning that if the situation is not contained, it could spread rapidly to neighboring countries. The agency notes that more than one million people die from malaria each year.
MELTING ICE AFFECTING PEOPLE, PLANTS & ANIMALS IN POLAR REGIONS: The World Meteorological Organizations latest research
provides new evidence of the widespread effects of global warming in the polar regions. According to its findings, snow and ice are melting in both Antarctica and the Arctic, affecting human livelihoods and local plant and animal life. Researchers have also discovered that North Atlantic storms are major sources of heat and moisture for these regions.
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