Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

Today is UN Peacekeepers' Day and the Secretary-General arrived just a few hours ago in Bamako, Mali, to spend this Day with troops and personnel of the UN Mission in the country, MINUSMA.

Upon arrival, the Secretary-General was greeted by President Ibrahim Keita and other Malian officials. He then participated in a ceremony to pay tribute to our fallen colleagues and he is now with UN personnel.

The Secretary-General said he was honoured to be spending Peacekeeper’s Day with the brave men and women serving in our mission in Mali, our operation with the highest casualties last year. At their own personal risk, they save lives serving the cause of peace.

At Headquarters, we will celebrate Peacekeepers’ Day on Friday, 1 June.

This morning, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, briefed Security Council members on the humanitarian situation in Syria.

He said the United Nations continues to run one of the world’s largest humanitarian operations there, providing food, water, shelter and health services to hundreds of thousands of people every day. However, he said that there are still more than 2 million people in hard-to-reach areas such as rural Homs, Douma and southern Damascus and he asked Council Members for their support to ensure safe, unimpeded and sustained access to reach those who are in greatest need.

Mr. Lowcock said that over the past two months, the UN and its partners have been providing assistance in areas hosting people displaced from eastern Ghouta, but noted that this assistance must now extend into eastern Ghouta itself, as people there begin to try to rebuild their lives. The UN has only been given access one time to this area, Mr. Lowcock said, and he called on the Syrian Government to facilitate access.

He also noted said the security situation remains precarious in other areas, including in Afrin, Raqqa, Idlib, and in the Yarmouk camp in rural Damascus posing challenges for humanitarian assistance.

In Libya, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is concerned about the situation of civilians in the eastern city of Derna amid escalating violence, and calls for their protection. At least one person was killed and seven people, including two children, were reportedly injured yesterday.

The city’s desalination plant has also been shut down over concerns for staff safety. As a result, the entire city is without water supply, and an estimated 125,000 people are relying solely on the water they have stored in their tanks. Severe shortages of medical supplies have been reported at the city’s only operating hospital. Food shortages have also been reported. There are periodic closures of checkpoints, restricting people’s freedom of movement and preventing civilians from leaving areas of conflict.

Humanitarian access to Derna remains severely limited. No humanitarian supplies have been delivered since mid-March, despite urgent needs, including in the health sector. The humanitarian community calls on all parties to enable immediate, safe and unfettered humanitarian access to Derna to enable the delivery of life-saving supplies.

A report released today by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and the UN Rights office finds that Afghan women’s access to justice remains severely inadequate, even though a law was passed in 2009 to eliminate of violence against them.

The report documented the individual experiences of Afghan women who are survivors of violence and found that most of their cases were mediated by traditional dispute resolution mechanisms, and noted that the use of mediation deprives victims of access to justice.

The report also details unchecked impunity in honour killings and the murder of women, and calls on the Government to ensure the full implementation of the Elimination of Violence against Women Law.

Yesterday, the humanitarian community in Cameroon launched an Emergency Response Plan to respond to the most urgent humanitarian needs in the south-west and north-west regions of the country. The Plan, which is seeking US$15 million to deliver life-saving assistance and prevent further hardship for the affected population, is targeting 160,000 internally displaced people for an initial period of three months. The response will require a flexible approach to quickly adapt to an unpredictable context and rapidly evolving displacement patterns.

The crisis in the south-west and north-west regions is taking place against a backdrop of several other humanitarian emergencies that are affecting 3.3 million people across Cameroon.

In Nigeria, the World Health Organization says they have deployed 39 staff members with plans underway for an additional 15 personnel, to rapidly contain a confirmed outbreak of cholera in Mubi North and South local government areas of Adamawa state.

The technical staff is coordinating partners’ response to the current outbreak and supporting case management, surveillance and contact tracing of suspected cases to guide interventions and ensure that the outbreak does not spread to other locations.

As of 26 May, 434 suspected cases, amongst which 13 deaths, have been reported in the affected areas. WHO says the transmission rate of the ongoing cholera outbreak in Adamawa state is worrisome. The agency is leveraging its past experience in controlling major cholera outbreaks in internally displaced persons camps and host communities.

Efforts are already yielding results, as indicated by a decline in the trend of case fatality ratio, which was 17% as of 12 May but was reduced to 3% in less than 2 weeks. Nevertheless, more efforts are urgently needed to avoid a spread to other parts of the state as the incidence rate soars daily.

A report released today by the World Food Programme and the World Bank found that poverty among refugees who received cash assistance in Turkey has fallen by half in a little over a year.

Families receiving cash assistance through the European Union-funded Emergency Social Safety Net are less likely to sell their possessions, skimp on medical expenses or take their children out of school, the report says. Data also indicates that families are eating better, with more fresh vegetables, meat and dairy products.

The programme helps some 1.3 million refugees and the European Union has so far channelled approximately $1.2 billion dollars to fund it.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today released a report that says global tea consumption and production will keep rising over the next decade.

The report says tea consumption is growing in emerging economies, particularly in China and India, driven by a combination of higher incomes and the diversification of tea products which includes herbal teas, fruit fusions and gourmet teas.

The report notes that the growing demand for tea will create new rural income opportunities and improve food security in tea-producing countries.

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