Syria: UN chief calls on warring parties to put cessation of hostilities ‘back on track’

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the warring Syrian sides to immediately recommit to the cessation of hostilities and uphold their responsibility to protect civilians, his spokesman said today.

“The Secretary-General is profoundly concerned about the dangerous escalation of fighting in and around Aleppo and the intolerable suffering, counted in mounting deaths and destruction, it is causing among civilians,” UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said in a statement.

Noting the temporary re-launch of a cessation of hostilities in Damascus and Lattakiya governorates, the UN chief stressed the need to expand these arrangements to other parts of Syria, with a special urgency for Aleppo.

Mr. Ban, according to the spokesman, also reiterated his call on all concerned regional and international actors, in particular, Russia and the United States, co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), which is supporting the current UN-mediated intra-Syrian talks, to redouble their efforts to help the warring parties put the truce back on track.

The ISSG, which along with Russia and the US, is comprised of the United Nations, the Arab League, the European Union and 16 countries, has been seeking a path forward to end the Syrian crisis for the past several months.

The cessation of hostilities has not only alleviated the plight of some of the Syrian people, but it is also vital to the overall process set up and sustained in Geneva by the ISSG, including the political transition process under the leadership of Staffan de Mistura, the UN Special Envoy for Syria.

“The collapse of the cessation of hostilities will only bring more violence, death and destruction while further weakening efforts to find a negotiated solution to this brutal war,” the statement said.

In related news, at the daily press briefing at UN headquarters in New York, Mr. Dujarric noted that Mr. de Mistura has met with the US Secretary of State John Kerry in Geneva to talk about the currents situation on the ground and the need to bolster support for the cessation of hostilities.

He said that Mr. de Mistura also met with the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, Ahmed Mohammed al-Jubeir, and underlined the importance of the members of the ISSG assisting with the re-implementation of the cessation of hostilities.

Mr. de Mistura is scheduled to travel to Moscow tonight where he will meet with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Sergey Lavrov, added the UN Spokesperson.

On World Malaria Day, UN says world closer to eliminating ‘ancient killer’

April 25, 2016 – A year after the World Health Assembly resolved to eliminate malaria from at least 35 countries by 2030, a new World Health Organization (WHO) report released today – on World Malaria Day – shows that the goal, although ambitious, is achievable.

In a press release, WHO said that in 2015, all countries in the WHO European region reported, for the first time, zero indigenous cases of malaria, down from 90,000 cases in 1995. “Our report shines a spotlight on countries that are well on their way to eliminating malaria,” said Pedro Alonso, Director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme. “WHO commends these countries while also highlighting the urgent need for greater investment in settings with high rates of malaria transmission, particularly in Africa. Saving lives must be our first priority.”

Outside the WHO European region, eight countries reported zero cases of the disease in 2014: Argentina, Costa Rica, Iraq, Morocco, Oman, Paraguay, Sri Lanka and United Arab Emirates.

Another eight countries each tallied fewer than 100 indigenous malaria cases in 2014, and a further 12 countries reported between 100 and 1,000 indigenous malaria cases in 2014, according to the agency.

The Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016-2030, approved by the World Health Assembly in May 2015, calls for the elimination of local transmission of malaria in at least 10 countries by 2020.

WHO estimates that 21 countries are in a position to achieve this goal, including 6 countries in the African region, where the burden of the disease is heaviest.

Countries moving towards elimination of malaria

Since the year 2000, malaria mortality rates have declined by 60 per cent globally. In the WHO African region, malaria mortality rates fell by 66 per cent among all age groups and by 71 per cent among children under 5 years old.

The advances came through the use of core malaria control tools that have been widely deployed over the past decade, including insecticide-treated bed nets, indoor residual spraying, rapid diagnostic testing and artemisinin-based combination therapies.

But reaching the next level – elimination – will not be easy, WHO noted. Nearly half of the world’s population, 3.2 billion people, remain at risk of malaria. In 2015 alone, 214 million new cases of the disease were reported in 95 countries and more than 400,000 people died of malaria.

WHO emphasized that the efficacy of the tools that secured the gains against malaria in the early years of this century is now threatened. Mosquito resistance to insecticides used in nets and indoor residual spraying is growing, as is parasite resistance to a component of one of the most powerful antimalarial medicines.

Further progress against malaria will likely require new tools that do not exist today, and the further refining of new technologies, the agency said.

WHO noted that in 2015, for the first time, the European Medicines Agency issued a positive scientific opinion on a malaria vaccine. In January 2016, WHO recommended large-scale pilot projects of the vaccine in several African countries, which could pave the way for wider deployment in the years ahead.

Need for strong political commitment and funding

“New technologies must go hand in hand with strong political and financial commitment,” said Mr. Alonso.

WHO stressed that governments must strengthen surveillance of cases to identify gaps in coverage and be prepared to take action based on the information received. As countries approach elimination, the ability to detect every infection becomes increasingly important.

Reaching the goals of the “Global Technical Strategy” will require a steep increase in global and domestic funding – from $2.5 billion today to an estimated $8.7 billion annually by 2030, the agency said.

WHO added that through “robust financing and political will,” affected countries can speed progress towards malaria elimination and contribute to the broader development agenda as laid out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In his message on the Day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said malaria is a formidable opponent, so there is no guarantee that progress will continue. “If we lower our guard, experience shows that the disease may come back. Mosquitoes develop resistance to insecticides and malaria parasites can become resistant to medicines.”

He commended the World Health Assembly for setting ambitious goals for 2030: reducing malaria cases and mortality by at least 90 per cent; and eliminating malaria in at least 35 countries.

“Reaching these goals will require significantly greater investment in fighting malaria. But it will take more than money. It will take political will and leadership,” said Mr. Ban, stressing that as the world celebrated progress against this “ancient killer,” everyone involved must redouble their efforts to reach the 2030 malaria goals.

‘Today is an historic day,’ says Ban, as 175 countries sign Paris climate accord

April 22, 2016 – As 175 world leaders signed the Paris Agreement at United Nations Headquarters today, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the next critical step is to ensure that the landmark accord for global action on climate change enters into force as soon as possible.

“Today is an historic day,” Mr. Ban told reporters at a press conference following the opening ceremony of the signing event. “This is by far the largest number of countries ever to sign an international agreement on a single day.”

According to the UN chief, the participation by so many countries and the attendance by so many world leaders leaves “no doubt” that the international community is determined to take climate action. He also welcomed the strong presence of the private sector and civil society, saying they are “crucial to realizing the great promise of the Paris Agreement.”

Adopted in Paris by the 196 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at a conference known as (COP21) last December, the Agreement’s objective is to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius. It will enter into force 30 days after at least 55 countries, accounting for 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, deposit their instruments of ratification.

“If all the countries that have signed today take the next step at the national level and join the Agreement, the world will have met the requirement needed for the Paris Agreement to enter into force,” Mr. Ban highlighted, congratulating the 15 Parties that have already deposited their instruments for ratification.

These Parties include Barbados, Belize, Fiji, Grenada, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Nauru, Palau, Palestine, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Somalia and Tuvalu.

Speaking alongside the Secretary-General, French President François Hollande applauded all those who made it possible to reach the second stage of the process – the signing of the document.

“I want to underscore that in Paris, it wasn’t just a single agreement that was brought about and needs to be ratified,” Mr. Hollande told the press. “In Paris, there were also four initiatives that were launched: the International Solar Energy Alliance, the development plan for renewable energy, the innovation mission with [United States] President Obama, and finally the high-level coalition to set a price for fossil fuels and coal.”

He insisted that France needs to be role model and set the example, not just because it was the place where the accord was reached, but because the country contributed to the solution.

“France should be an example to show that it wants to be the first – or one of the first – not just to ratify but also to implement the contents of the Agreement,” Mr. Hollande stated, noting that his country will increase its annual financing for climate from three to five billion euros per year between now and 2020.

Meanwhile, in two weeks, the UN chief will co-host the Climate Action 2016 meeting in Washington D.C., which is expected to bring together leaders and experts from many fields, including government, business, civil society and academia, ahead of the next COP in Morocco in November.

Following the press conference, in remarks to an Informal High-Level event on promoting the early entry into force of the Agreement, Mr. Ban encouraged all countries to move forward quickly with their own domestic processes to accept and ratify the accord.

“As you are well aware, we need at least 55 countries and 55 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. Having 55 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions may be a little bit shorter and easier if the United States and China […] ratify or join. Then it will add to almost 40 per cent. I call on the countries gathered here to use this opportunity to announce your timeline for joining the Agreement as soon as possible,” he said.

Mr. Ban said that it is imperative that strong political momentum continues to build, as the spirit of Paris is still continuing. “I will do all that I can this year to ensure that the Paris Agreement enters into force as soon as possible,” he said.

Ecuador: UN food convoy heads to quake-ravaged areas

19 April 2016 – The United Nations food relief agency has sent a convoy to assist some 8,000 people severely affected by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit the coast of Ecuador, leaving more than 400 people dead and thousands more in desperate need of humanitarian aid.

At the request of Ecuador’s Government, the World Food Programme (WFP) and authorities organized truckloads with enough food to feed 8,000 people for 15 days in the worst-hit areas. WFP has also mobilized an emergency team to the quake-affected areas to assess the humanitarian and food security situation, the agency said in a press release.

Because the region was bracing itself for the impact of El Niño, emergency food assistance kits had been ready to go. The kits, including quinoa, rice, pasta, tuna, sardines, oatmeal and lentils, were designed months ago by WFP and the country’s Secretariat for Risk Management as the most effective type of assistance for people living in the coastal areas.

“This first delivery of food assistance will make a tremendous difference in the lives of people who are overcoming such hardship,” said WFP Country Representative Kyungnan Park. “WFP was ready to react swiftly to this emergency thanks to joint efforts with the Ecuadorian Government to prepare a response to the El Niño weather phenomenon, which is currently affecting the country.”

Additional food assistance will be delivered to 12,000 people and more than 1,000 hospital patients also affected by the earthquake. As more information about the extent of the damage and food needs becomes available, further assistance will be provided upon the Government’s request.

Meanwhile, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is reporting that at least 150,000 children are affected by the April 16 earthquake. According to preliminary Government reports, the earthquake damaged 119 schools, affecting 88,000 children. Some 805 buildings have been destroyed and 608 have been damaged. Two hospitals have entirely collapsed in Portoviejo and will be airlifted to Quito by

In some of the worst hit areas, UNICEF says that mudslides are causing further damage to infrastructure and hindering access of relief teams and supplies. Some cities are still without full power and only 40 per cent of communication lines are working.

UNICEF is concerned about health, water and sanitation conditions in the coastal areas – which are already considered hotspots for Zika, Dengue, Malaria and Chikungunya.

“We are in a race against time to protect children from disease and other risks common in such emergencies,” said Grant Leaity, UNICEF Representative in Ecuador.