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UN refugee agency begins emergency airlift for quake victims in eastern Turkey

Article / Review by on October 28, 2011 – 9:49 pmNo Comments

UN refugee agency begins emergency airlift for quake victims in eastern Turkey

28 October 2011

The United Nations refugee agency has launched an emergency airlift to bring tents, blankets and other vital relief supplies for the victims of the deadly earthquake that struck eastern Turkey earlier this week.
UN refugee agency begins emergency airlift for quake victims in eastern Turkey

The 7.2-magnitude earthquake near the city of Van on Sunday is reported to have killed at least 500 people and injured an estimated 1,600 others, according to figures provided by the Turkish authorities.

The emergency airlift is in response to an appeal for help from the Turkish Red Crescent, according to UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Adrian Edwards, who told reporters in Geneva that the first of four humanitarian flights is scheduled to land in Erzurum tonight.

The next three flights are slated to touch down in Erzurum on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Each flight will be carrying approximately 500 tents and 10,000 blankets from the agency’s emergency stockpile in Dubai. The supplies arriving by plane will be loaded on trucks and taken immediately to Van and surrounding areas for distribution.

“Together with resources we already have in Turkey, our immediate emergency relief response for the victims of earthquake amounts to 4,000 tents, 50,000 blankets and 10,000 sleeping mats,” said Mr. Edwards.

While the full impact of the disaster is still being assessed, UNHCR noted that the city of Van alone has a population of more than 400,000 people and many of them lost homes.

“Hundreds of buildings collapsed and thousands of others have been rendered uninhabitable,” Mr. Edwards said. “The shelter needs are great.”

In addition to more than 25,000 tents already distributed by the authorities, the Turkish Government has appealed for 40,000 winterized tents and 40,000 transitional shelters.

Staff from UNHCR, which has been present in Van since 1995, are working closely with the Turkish authorities who are leading the search and rescue and the overall relief effort.

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REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE

28 October 2011

Corinne Momal-Vanian, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing which was also attended by Spokespersons for the World Trade Organization, the World Meteorological Organization, the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Food Programme, the World Health Organization and the International Organization for Migration.

Central American flooding

The United Nations and the Government of Nicaragua today launched a Flash Appeal of US$ 14.3 million to assist 134,000 people affected by the floods over the next six months, said Corinne Momal-Vanian. Priority sectors for this appeal are water and sanitation, shelter, health, food aid, agricultural livelihoods and early recovery.

Although the Government is responding swiftly and effectively to the disaster, there are still significant humanitarian gaps, identified by the Government and confirmed by the UNDAC team and UN agency needs assessments.

Mr. Jumbe Omari Jumbe from the International Organization for Migration added that assistance from his organization was now beginning for all four countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras) badly hit by the floods in Central America. Following the receipt of nearly USD$300,000 from the CERF for El Salvador 42 temporary shelters could now be managed, housing nearly 2,000 persons.

In Guatemala, where nearly 500,000 people had been made homeless, the IOM was now fixing shelters for 2,000 families, as well as helping them with non-food assistance. An appeal for USD$400,000 for IOM operations in the country has been launched. In Nicaragua, where around 7,000 people are now homeless, IOM had asked for USD$600,000 to provide psychosocial support and assistance, particularly to the 4,000 children in the shelters.

Turkey

Mr. Adrian Edwards from the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees said that four flights, each containing 37 metric tons of supplies, including 500 tents and 10,000 blankets, had been planned for the next three days to help victims of the earthquake in Eastern Turkey. On arrival the items would be immediately taken by truck for distribution.

In a population of 400,000 many had lost homes, he said, and the shelter needs were great. In addition to more than 25,000 tents already distributed by the authorities, the Turkish government had appealed for 40,000 winterized tents and 40,000 transitional shelters. The UNHCR country team already working in the area had volunteered to stay on, he explained, and additional protection teams and advice on accessing relief assistance, including the possible relocation of the most vulnerable, would be provided.

Responding to a question, Mr. Edwards confirmed that the United Nations would only be operating in the area if a request from the home government had been received. Ms. Momal-Vanian added that the United Nations Population Fund and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs were also providing supplies, though on a smaller scale.

Thailand flooding 

Ms. Clare Nullis from the World Meteorological Organization said that authorities in Thailand were bracing themselves for a combination of high tides and worsening flooding this weekend. Furthermore, the Thailand Meteorological Department has issued weather warnings for today and this weekend saying the moderate north east monsoon over Southern Thailand and the Gulf of Thailand would cause additional flooding south of Bangkok, in an area not previously affected.

It was also predicted that from 28 to 30 October there would be very heavy rain in the area of Chumphon causing high wind waves in the Gulf of Thailand, the risks of which people and ships should be aware. Seasonal forecasts were also now available, predicting abundant rainfall and storm surges in Southern Thailand through December. Satellite images of the impact of flooding could be accessed through the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT) website, she said.

Kala-azar epidemic in South Sudan

Mr. Tarik Jasarevic of the World Health Organization (WHO) said the epidemic of visceral leishmaniasis was continuing in the Republic of South Sudan, with more than 18,000 cases recorded, showing a fatality rate of four per cent. Since first being noted in September 2009, the outbreak had spread to new areas, mostly affecting children under 17 years of age. A one third increase in new cases had been seen in the first nine months of 2011, compared to 2010.

A multi-sectoral approach by health partners and the World Health Organization to support national health authorities was bringing down the case fatality ratio, said Mr. Jasarevic, through an increase in health facilities providing treatment and a greater number of partners participating in the response.

Dr. Daniel Dagne, WHO Medical Officer, Neglected Tropical Diseases added that there were three major clinical forms of the disease. The first, cutaneous, affected only the skin, or additionally, muco-cutaneous, which affects the mucus-coated (such as the septum) parts of the body. The most serious, the condition known as kala-azar, caused death through attacking the internal organs and bone marrow, such as in the cases seen in South Sudan. Kala-azar had a high mortality rate, of over 95 per cent if not treated, he added, and the outbreak in the newly emerged country had already claimed more than 720 lives, though this was probably under-reported.

Niger

Gaelle Sevenier from the World Food Programme (WFP) said her organization was planning to scale up its operations in Niger after a poor harvest and insect attack had created a national cereal deficit of around 500,000 metric tons, threatening a food crisis in the next six months.

The WFP now needed to feed two million people in the 18 months between July 2011 and December 2012, and the budget needed to tackle the growing crisis and protect the most vulnerable in the next six months would need to expand by USD$60 million, said Ms. Sevenier. This expansion would particularly target pregnant women and children.

Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania had also issued alerts, with 700,000 people facing severe food insecurity in the latter country, a figure that could double next year. The increasing frequency of droughts in the Sahel gave communities less and less time to recover from previous crises, according to the WFP, and the return of migrant workers from Libya that previously supported families was also affecting local communities and food scarcity.

Afghanistan 

Mr. Adrian Edwards, of the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said that the number of Afghan refugees returning home from Pakistan, Iran and other countries under the UNHCR’s voluntary return operation has exceeded 60,000 to date in 2011. Of these, 43,000 are from Pakistan and over 17,000 from Iran.

With Pakistan, the return figure was 59 per cent lower than in the same period last year, when over 103,000 Afghans returned home. The lack of livelihood opportunities and shelter, as well as insecurity were the most-frequently cited reasons for not returning, he said.

Since March 2002, UNHCR and its government counterparts have assisted 4.6 million Afghans in repatriating, mainly from Pakistan and Iran. The repatriation assistance offered is an average of US$150 per person to cover transportation as well as the initial cost of settling back home.

Geneva activities

The Committee on Human Rights held a meeting yesterday at the Palais des Nations, with the States Parties to the Convention, said Ms. Momal-Vanian. The rest of the session would take place mainly behind closed doors, including the adoption of concluding observations on the reports on Iran, Jamaica, Kuwait and Norway. Comments would be published at the end of the session next Friday.

The Committee against Torture would meet from Monday for four weeks to review reports from nine countries. The first report discussed would be Morocco, on Tuesday morning followed by Djibouti, Paraguay and Germany, then, Sri Lanka, Bulgaria, Madagascar, Belarus and Greece, in that order. She added that a press release on this was distributed last night.

Ms. Momal-Vanian announced a press conference, on Monday, October 31 at 11:30 by the International Institute for Labour Studies on their “World of Work Report 2011 – Jobs and Markets” attended by Raymond Torres, Director, International Institute for Labour Studies, Marva Corley, Senior Economist, IILS and Steven Tobin, Senior Economist, IILS.

Another had been scheduled on Tuesday, November 1 after that day’s press briefing by the United Nations Development Programme on their “Human Development Report 2011 – Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All,” she said. In attendance, Ms. Jeni Klugman, Lead Author of the 2011 HDR and former Director of the UNDP Human Development Report Office in New York and Mr. Adam Rogers, Senior Strategic Communication Advisor, UNDP.

Fadela Chaib from the World Health Organization (WHO) reminded attendees of an extraordinary meeting by the 34 members of the Executive Committee of the World Health Organization, 1 to 3 November from 9:30am. The meeting planned to discuss the agenda for internal reform, priorities and the future role of the WHO with representatives of Member States and partners. Journalists were welcome to attend, she said, and copies of the document used as the base for the discussion were available at the back of the room or online. A press conference on the meeting’s conclusions may be organized.

World Trade Organization

Ms. Ankai Xu from the World Trade Organization (WTO) said next week brought the Trade Policy review of Cambodia on Tuesday and Thursday, with the Cambodian delegation briefing afterwards. Also next week, the Financial Service meeting would be held on Monday, on Tuesday the GATS Rules Working Party, the Specific Commitments Committee on Wednesday, the Services Council on Thursday and the Domestic Regulation Working Party on Friday. The Technology Transfer Working Group was scheduled to meet on Thursday, she added.

Ms. Xu said WTO’s Director-General, Pascal Lamy, would be in New York this Friday and Saturday to attend the United Nations Chief Executive Board Meeting, and would meet in Geneva on Monday with the Minister of Commerce of Cambodia. On Tuesday he would sign a contract between the WTO and Haute Ecole d’Art et de Design for WTO buildings design. On Wednesday he planned to visit Cannes in France for the B-20 Business Summit and L20 Trade Union Summit. On Thursday and Friday he was scheduled to attend the 2011 G-20 Cannes summit.

 

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> United Nations (UN).

The General Assembly in session. Photo credit: UN / Eskinder Debebe The United Nations was established on 24 October 1945 by 51 countries committed to preserving peace through international cooperation and collective security. Today, nearly every nation in the world belongs to the UN: membership totals 192 countries.

When States become Members of the United Nations, they agree to accept the obligations of the UN Charter, an international treaty that sets out basic principles of international relations. According to the Charter, the UN has four purposes:

  • to maintain international peace and security;
  • to develop friendly relations among nations;
  • to cooperate in solving international problems and in promoting respect for human rights;
  • and to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations.

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* The above story is adapted from materials provided by United Nations (UN)
** More information at United Nations (UN)

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