UN Weekly Roundup: February 4-10, 2023

united nations — Editor’s note: Here is a fast take on what the international community has been up to this past week, as seen from the United Nations perch.

More Than 22,000 Dead in Earthquakes

Two devastating earthquakes, one a 7.8 magnitude and the other a 7.5 magnitude, struck parts of Turkey and Syria in the early hours of Monday, as many families slept. The tremors were felt in the region and as far away as Greenland. Four days after the earthquakes, hope was fading for finding many survivors. The United Nations was focused on the relief response, particularly to Syria, where millions in the war-torn country were already in need before the disaster.

First UN Aid Convoy Reaches Quake-hit Northern Syria

Guterres Bleak on State of World

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Monday that the world needed to wake up and take urgent action to change the trajectory of conflicts and geopolitical divisions, the climate crisis and economic inequality. He told the General Assembly, "We need a course correction," as he laid out his priorities for the year.

UN Chief: World Needs ‘Wake-Up Call’

Somalia Still at Risk of Famine

The U.N. resident coordinator for Somalia said there was still a "strong possibility" of famine in Somalia this year if the spring rains underperformed. The organization appealed for $2.6 billion this year to assist 7.6 million of the most vulnerable Somalis who are facing acute hunger from conflict, high food prices and unprecedented drought.

UN Appeals for $2.6 Billion to Ease Hunger Crisis in Somalia

US Antisemitism Campaign Comes to UN

Second gentleman Doug Emhoff urged the international community Thursday to speak out against antisemitism and called out those who do not, saying silence is not an option. "This moment requires bold collective action and urgency, not just concepts," Emhoff, the husband of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, told a gathering at the United Nations.

US Second Gentleman Calls for ‘Bold Collective Action’ to Curb Antisemitism

In Brief

- U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said 17.6 million people needed humanitarian assistance in Ukraine — nearly 40% of the population. Griffiths told the Security Council on Monday that the U.N. and its agencies had provided 15.8 million people with assistance, including more than 1.3 million people in areas outside Kyiv’s control. But he called for better and more frequent access, especially to areas under Russia’s military control, where he said it had become increasingly unpredictable and impeded.

- The U.N. children’s agency estimated that 1 million children were out of school in Haiti because of social unrest, insecurity, the high costs of education and lack of educational services. UNICEF said Thursday that armed violence against schools, including shooting, ransacking, looting and kidnappings, was nine times higher than in the past year. Gangs control more than a third of the capital, Port-au-Prince, and are terrorizing the population. In October, the government requested that the U.N. Security Council authorize the immediate deployment of an international specialized armed force to help stop the armed groups, but the raising of the troops and leadership for the mission has been slow. Haiti’s gangs are seeking to exploit the political vacuum left by the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise.

- The World Health Organization said Thursday that Africa was witnessing a rapid rise in cholera as cases surge globally. They noted that cases recorded on the continent in January alone had already risen by more than 30% of the total cases in 2022. WHO said an estimated 26,000 cases and 660 deaths had been reported as of the end of January in 10 countries.

- On Sunday, a helicopter that was part of the peacekeeping mission in eastern DR Congo was shot down while traveling in North Kivu province. One South African peacekeeper was killed, and another was severely injured. The crew managed to land the helicopter in Goma. The incident was under investigation.

- The U.N. condemned last weekend’s decision by Mali’s junta to declare the U.N. human rights representative, Guillaume Ngefa, persona non grata and ordered him to leave the country within 48 hours. A U.N. spokesperson said the doctrine of "persona non grata" was not applicable to U.N. personnel and Mali’s move violated its obligations under the U.N. Charter regarding the privileges and immunities of the U.N. and its personnel.

Quote of Note

"It’s a crisis on top of a crisis." — U.N. resident coordinator for Syria El-Mostafa Benlamlih, briefing reporters on Wednesday, speaking of the 10.9 million Syrians affected by Monday’s earthquakes in a country where 15.3 million already needed humanitarian assistance because of more than a decade of civil war.

Next Week

As the devastation from Monday’s earthquakes becomes clearer, the U.N. will be focused on working to gain access to victims in parts of Syria beyond government control. If the Damascus government refuses, the Security Council will likely take up the issue.