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Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

4 October 2018

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that, as of today, the Government of Indonesia reports that 1,581 people have died following the earthquake and tsunami in central Sulawesi.  More than 2,500 others have been severely injured while more than 100 people are still missing.

Some 66,000 houses have been damaged and nearly 71,000 people have been uprooted from their homes.

Hospitals and clinics are reportedly overwhelmed and are experiencing shortages of medical supplies and staff.

OCHA says that immediate needs include medical and health services, food, clean water, shelter and psychosocial support.

UN agencies, the Red Cross and other NGOs (non-governmental organizations) are among those already on the ground and scaling up their efforts to help those in need.

Aid workers are helping the Government's response by providing support in areas including logistics, child protection and reproductive health.

In addition to the destruction of roads and other critical infrastructure, there have been numerous land and mudslides, hampering the delivery of relief.

UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) is planning to work on family tracing and reunification with the Government and the Red Cross, as well as providing psychosocial support to children.

OCHA also stressed that, while much of the focus has been on ensuring that people receive life-saving assistance in Sulawesi, it is also important to remember that this disaster comes on the heels of a series of earthquakes in Lombok in July and August of this year.  Efforts to help people affected there are ongoing.


The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that it is working with the Nigerian Government to support the health response in States affected by large-scale flooding since August.

WHO has deployed experts to strengthen surveillance and early warning response in the camps hosting displaced populations and is also assisting the Government to obtain essential drugs and commodities to those affected by the flooding. 


Yesterday, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), spoke at UN Security Council consultations on the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's (DRC's) North Kivu Province.

The briefing came ahead of a visit by the Security Council to the DRC from 5-8 October. 

He stressed that the response to the outbreak faced significant challenges, including the security situation in the Beni area of North Kivu, where recent attacks led to a break in operations for several days.  The full speech is available on the WHO website.


In Madagascar, our humanitarian colleagues say that 31 cases of plague, including six confirmed cases and six deaths, have been reported as of 30 September.

Of the six confirmed cases, three were pneumonic plague and three bubonic.  The plague is endemic on the Plateux of Madagascar and usually affects the country between September and April. 

There is concern that without early action, the outbreak could spread and reach emergency levels.  Resources are urgently required to scale-up prevention, including through safe burials and enhancing community engagement.

**Food Prices

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) issued its monthly Food Price Index today, which showed that global agricultural food commodity prices fell in September due to growing inventories of key staple goods.

The FAO Food Price Index declined 1.4 per cent from August and is now 7.4 per cent below its level during September 2017.


World Space Week kicks off today.  This year's theme is "Space Unites the World" and it focuses on international cooperation in space.  There will be events around the world throughout the week, including the release of mini space documentaries in IMAX theatres and talks by Airbus employees in schools across Europe. 

**Noon Briefing Guest

In a short while, I will be joined by Ali Al-Za'tari, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in the Syrian Arab Republic.  He will brief you on the situation in the country.  Before we go to him, do you have any questions for me?

**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  I want to ask you about developments in Iraq.  A new president was appointed.  A prime… and he appointed a Prime Minister-designate, to form the cabinet.  Any comment from the Secretary-General?  And my second question about Iraq is, there has been an election in the Kurdistan Regional Government, and the parties have submitted some complaints to the United Nations (Mission), UNAMI.  Any updates or information about that?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, regarding your first question, you'll have seen that the Secretary-General welcomed the election of Barham Salih as President in a statement that we issued yesterday.  In addition, yesterday, the Special Representative for Iraq, Ján Kubiš, welcomed the designation of Adel Abdul Mahdi to form the country's next government.  And Mr. Kubiš said that the United Nations reiterates its support for the Iraqi people as they build a new future of peace, stability and prosperity.  And so we are continuing to encourage the efforts to form a government in Iraq, and we'll continue to do so.  What was your first question again?

Question:  The second question was about the elections in Kurdistan region.  There have been complaints submitted to UNAMI about the process.  Do you have any updates from UNAMI about those…

Deputy Spokesman:  Regarding all of the various elections that are taking place, what we have been encouraging, including through the UN Mission in Iraq, is that all complaints be submitted to the relevant electoral authorities, and we hope that all parties will do that and that all complaints will be fairly heard.  Yes?

Question:  Yeah, Farhan.  On the Secretary-General, I mean, why is the Secretary-General so reluctant to talk about human rights abuses in India, Kashmir, and also about the human right defenders in… who were incarcerated about a month ago by the [Narendra] Modi government?  Why is the Secretary-General not talking to the Indian Government about these issues?

Deputy Spokesman:  He's not reluctant at all to talk about the situation in Kashmir, and, as you know from his recent press conferences, including this year, he has brought up the issue of what he wants to see there.  And, of course, when he goes on travels, when it is relevant, with some of his different interlocutors, he brings up the various human rights topics.

Question:  He is in India and there was an opportunity to talk about it…

Deputy Spokesman:  He is not in India.  Today he is in New York City. 

Question:  And he has already missed it because he… he didn't… ignored this crisis but months ago, and he chose to ignore it as… is there a particular reason?

Deputy Spokesman:  Like I said, he has not ignored it.  If you look back over the year at the various press conferences, he has made comments, and I would just refer you to what he's been saying about the situation in Kashmir.

Question:  No, but the thing is… what about human rights defenders?  He has not even talked about the incarcerated… Indian, I'm talking about not Kashmir, Indian human rights defenders. 

Deputy Spokesman:  All of these issues that you're bringing up have been addressed either by the Secretary-General himself or by the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Yes, in the back. 

Question:  Herman Houngbo from BBC Africa.  I have a question on the UN Security Council visit to DRC.  When is it? And do you know whether they will be meeting the DRC President when they are there?

Deputy Spokesman:  The visit is to go from the 5th through the 8th.  So, basically, it's starting tomorrow.  I believe they leave later this evening.  It's not for me to talk about their overall itinerary in terms of reference, but Bolivia, as the [President] of the Security Council, can talk to you about those topics.  I believe that Ambassador [Sacha] Llorentty yesterday mentioned this in… mentioned the topic in his briefing here in this room.  Yes, Mr. Sato?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Yesterday, US Government announced a withdrawal from the Vienna court… the International Court for Justice (ICJ).  It seemed that the US Government has accelerated the shift to keep the distance from the multilateral mechanism.  So, does Secretary-General have any comment or respond to that?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, I don't want to speculate on what course of action they may have.  At this point, of course, you're well aware of the Secretary-General's consistent support for all of the network of United Nations and affiliated bodies.  And, of course, we do encourage all Member States to work with the judicial system set up by the United Nations and… and its affiliated bodies.  Yes?

Question:  Just a quick follow-up regarding Inner City Press' expulsion.  Did the Secretary-General have any hand in the decision to expel Inner City Press from the UN?

Deputy Spokesman:  No, no, not at all.  This was a decision taken by the head of the Department of Public Information (DPI).  Yes?

Question:  Yeah, about… Farhan, about the situation in Yemen and the recent reports which said there's an outbreak of… another cholera outbreak in Yemen, has the United Nations prevailed upon the Saudi Coalition to allow the… at least the medicine and stuff to go and besides the money and aid which has, at this point in time, shortcoming?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we're trying to provide the medicines that would allow us to deal with the cholera outbreak in Yemen.  The World Health Organization is doing that, and we trust that all of the parties on the ground will give us the access we need to go about that.  And, with that, let me bring in our guest.  Hold on one second, please.

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