Monthly Archives: April 2019

South Africa Hospital Delivers HDR Brachytherapy Cancer Treatments with Varian Bravos Afterloader System

PALO ALTO, California and CAPE TOWN, South Africa, April 30, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Varian (NYSE: VAR) announced Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa is the first hospital in Africa to deliver High Dose Rate (HDR) brachytherapy treatments with the Bravosafterloader system. Bravos is an integrated system designed to improve the patient and clinic experience by simplifying brachytherapy treatments and providing greater workflow efficiency.

HDR brachytherapy involves delivering radiotherapy by temporarily placing a tiny radioactive source directly into the tumor or other targeted area. Using an afterloader, clinicians are able to position the radioactive source in a needle, catheter or tumor-specific applicator following a pattern that has been designed to create a highly conformal dose distribution within or on the surface of the patient’s anatomy. Once the treatment is completed, the afterloader safely returns the source to the afterloader.

To simplify the treatment process, the Bravos afterloader features a touchscreen control and instinctive LED lights. The touchscreen provides easy access to patient treatment information on the afterloader, eliminating the need for the clinician to leave the room to retrieve patient and treatment information.

To help increase efficiency of the treatment process, Bravos features a customizable pre-treatment checklist on the touchscreen. Like surgical procedures, the customizable checklist allows the clinician to set a review process including a time-out for patient safety, and e-signatures for speed and accuracy.

“We have been very impressed with Varian’s new afterloader technology and it is a big advancement from our previous system,” said Nanette Joubert, acting head, Medical Physics, Groote Schuur Hospital. “The Bravos system easily integrated with our Varian ARIA oncology information system and allowed us to quickly and safely begin seeing a full schedule of patients.”

“The Bravos system was quickly and easily integrated into the department to start treating gynecology cancer patients,” said Professor Jeannette Parkes, head of Division Radiation Oncology at Groote Schuur Hospital and University of Cape Town. “This is one of the largest groups of patients in our setting. In the future, we are looking forward to extending the brachytherapy program to treat prostate cancer patients, head and neck patients and possibly other groups of cancer patients with HDR brachytherapy.”

“We are delighted to be partnering with Groote Schuur Hospital to bring this advanced brachytherapy technology to cancer patients in South Africa,” said Vincent Ronfle, sales operations director Africa, Varian Oncology Systems EMEIA. “The Varian team conducted extensive global clinical research to better understand the needs of clinicians and patients to help simplify the brachytherapy treatment process. The result was Bravos and it is another important step towards creating a world without fear of cancer.”

About Varian
Varian is a leader in developing and delivering cancer care solutions and is focused on creating a world without fear of cancer. Headquartered in Palo Alto, California, Varian employs approximately 7,000 people around the world. For more information, visit http://www.varian.com and follow @VarianMedSys on Twitter.

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Adding Civilian Component to Abyei Interim Force Essential towards Matching ‘Reality on the Ground’, Peacekeeping Chief Tells Security Council

The United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) remains essential to the stability of the border regions between Sudan and South Sudan, the Organization’s Peacekeeping chief told the Security Council today, proposing the creation of a civilian unit to support progress towards political resolution of the dispute and requesting a six-month extension of its mandate.

A civilian component would enable the mission to support the parties, the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel and the African Union Commission to advance daily solutions, said Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report. This modest shift in the mission’s role is necessary to match the reality on the ground, he said.

He underscored the need to prevent the dispute from becoming a frozen conflict, stressing that while the situation generally remains calm � amid efforts by the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya communities to preserve peace through dialogue � Sudan and South Sudan have made no progress on the issue of Abyei.

Further, there have been delays in the Council’s request to reconfigure the mission, he said. The first phase of troop reductions � a repatriation of 260 troops by 15 March � has not taken place, but efforts are under way to start the process on 12 May. As for the increase in police personnel, while the selection of police officers and the formed police unit has been completed, 130 visas from the Government of Sudan, necessary for their deployment, remain outstanding.

Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, said that following the ouster of Sudan’s President on 11 April, the new authorities may need time to resume bilateral relations on the border, the Two Areas and Abyei. We have a de facto status quo situation, he said. In the absence of a joint administration and progress on Abyei’s final status, UNISFA remains central to preventing and resolving intercommunal conflicts.

In the coming weeks, he will encourage Khartoum and Juba to take a fresh look at the Abyei file, with a focus on implementing temporary arrangements for the Area’s administration. Noting that Sudan’s political transition could allow for redefining relations between the centre and its peripheries in a way that ends discrimination based on ethnicity, religion and territorial belonging, he said he will encourage parties to resolve the conflicts on the basis of a new political dispensation.

In the ensuing debate, delegates called on parties to accelerate efforts to fulfil their obligations, with several, including CAte d’Ivoire’s delegate, pressing Sudan and South Sudan to advance joint plans for administering Abyei. Equatorial Guinea’s delegate said those efforts should include plans for a police force, with the granting of all necessary visas. The 2011 agreement is the only way to achieve lasting stability and he called on the parties to recommit themselves to their provisions.

For its part, Khartoum is committed to upholding all agreements signed with South Sudan, said Sudan’s representative, especially the 2011 accord on temporary arrangements in Abyei � the bedrock for all such arrangements � including UNISFA’s deployment. The question of Abyei should be considered in the overall framework of relations between the countries, he said, citing progress made following negotiations � hosted by Sudan � which led to the Revitalized Agreement on the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan in 2018. Abyei is an integral part of Sudan, he recalled, a historical fact which must be recognized in any future arrangement.

South Sudan’s delegate meanwhile expressed optimism that the process begun by the two sisterly countries towards resolving the issue of Abyei will continue, facilitating a resolution on the latter’s final status. The Governments of Sudan and South Sudan are committed to the implementation of UNISFA’s mandate and request the Council’s continued support, she said.

Also speaking today were representatives of the United States, Kuwait, Indonesia, France, Dominican Republic, Peru, United Kingdom, Belgium, China, Russian Federation, Poland, South Africa and Germany.

The meeting began at 10:57 a.m. and ended at 12:36 p.m.

Briefing

JEAN-PIERRE LACROIX, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2019/319), said that despite sporadic violence, the situation in Abyei remained generally calm, amid efforts by the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya communities to preserve peace in the Area. Emphasizing that this is the first migration season since 2015 for which the situation no longer required the implementation of the disengagement line � instituted by the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) to prevent intercommunal violence � he said such conditions had been made possible by the communities’ commitment to engage in dialogue to de-escalate tensions, as well as the mission’s engagement with communities and robust military posture. Regrettably, Sudan and South Sudan made no progress on the issue of Abyei, and the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee has not met since November 2017.

Turning to the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism, he said the parties made progress on five of the seven benchmarks outlined in resolution 2438 (2018), having maintained standing clearance for all UNISFA patrols. Two team sites were established in the 14-mile Area of the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone. The Joint Political and Security Mechanism meanwhile convened in ordinary sessions in October 2018 and March 2019 � meaning that the meetings were not held under the auspices of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel. This points to an improved relationship between Sudan and South Sudan, he said, noting nonetheless that no progress was made on verifying border crossing corridors or establishing customs and migration offices, and that redeployment of forces from the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone remains a challenge.

He went on to say that the changing situation in Sudan has had no visible adverse impact on UNIFSA’s operations and it is too early to say whether this will provide opportunities for settlement of the Abyei dispute. The mission maintains contact with working-level interlocutors to ensure continuity of operations. There have been delays in the Council’s request to reconfigure the mission. The first phase of troop reductions � a planned repatriation of 360 troops by 15 March � has not yet taken place, due mainly to a 9 February helicopter crash, which created a shortage in air assets, and the current situation in Sudan. There are plans to start the process on 12 May, to be completed within one week. As for the increase in police personnel, while the selection of police officers and the formed police unit has been completed, 130 visas from the Government of Sudan, necessary for their deployment, remain outstanding. This particularly affects a team from Jordan needed to conduct a technical reconnaissance mission to Abyei for the deployment of the formed police unit.

As criminality is the biggest challenge in the Abyei Area, he requested the Council to urge the parties to address law and order matters, request Sudan to issue visas expeditiously, and South Sudan to advance the joint planning exercise for the establishment of the Abyei Police Service. The Secretary-General’s report proposes an augmented UNISFA civilian component to support the political process, enabling the mission to support the parties, the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel and the African Union Commission in advancing daily solutions. This modest shift in the mission’s role is necessary to match the reality on the ground, he said, particularly so given the difficult internal circumstances in both countries. It is important to prevent the dispute over Abyei and the border regions between Sudan and South Sudan from becoming another frozen conflict. While the mission continues to play a stabilizing role, it can only provide a conducive environment for the parties, whose own efforts remain essential to progress, he said, welcoming improved relations between the two countries over the last year. He reiterated the imperative of preserving gains achieved by the mission and the communities so they can be used to advance political resolution of the border issues between Sudan and South Sudan, requesting the Council to extend UNISFA’s mandate another six months.

PARFAIT ONANGA-ANYANGA, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Horn of Africa, said Sudan and South Sudan are at a crossroads with critical political processes under way. Citing challenges to implementing the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, and uncertainties around delicate political transformations in Sudan, he said Sudan has seen dramatic changes following protests that started in December 2018 and culminated in the deposition of President Omar al-Bashir on 11 April. Sudanese stakeholders must now agree on transitional and institutional arrangements, and the new authorities may need time to resume active engagement in bilateral relations, including concerning the border, the Two Areas and Abyei.

In the meantime, he said gains in the relations between Sudan and South Sudan should not be lost, citing Khartoum’s facilitating of the signing and subsequent implementation of the Revitalized Agreement in September 2018. In return, South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit accepted President al-Bashir’s request to assist in resolving the conflict between Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N). Juba has since hosted meetings of SPLM-N to help unify the factions of the movement but, following the outbreak of unrest in Sudan last December, talks between the factions were suspended.

With the ouster of President al-Bashir, he said there is concern that the absence of a principal guarantor of the peace agreement on South Sudan may have a negative impact on its implementation. As peace efforts in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States may also be affected, both countries should be encouraged to stay the course, with Khartoum supporting implementation of the peace agreement and Juba playing a constructive role to resolve the conflicts in Sudan. Touching on other mutual gains, including intensified bilateral cooperation in the oil sector, he said little progress has been made on joint security issues. We have a de facto status quo situation, he said. In the absence of a joint administration and progress on Abyei’s final status, UNISFA remains central to preventing and resolving intercommunal conflicts. In the coming weeks, he will encourage Khartoum and Juba to take a fresh look at the Abyei file, with a focus on implementing temporary arrangements for the Area’s administration and engagement on its final status.

Turning to the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States, he said SPLM-N leaders remain cautious about the military takeover in Sudan and what it perceives as a Khartoum-centric process. Yet, the political transition in Sudan may offer an opportunity to build new institutions better equipped to address the causes of the Sudanese conflicts. Immediately after the ouster of President al-Bashir, the Transitional Military Council declared an indefinite unilateral ceasefire across Sudan, which was reciprocated by the SPLM-N in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States until 31 July. The signatories of the Declaration of Freedom and Change meanwhile, which includes the political forces behind the protest movement, stress that resolving the conflicts in Sudan should be a priority of the transitional Government, once established.

He said there has been no progress on resolving the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States. A meeting planned by the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel to discuss the possible participation of opposition parties in the constitution drafting process and elections expected in 2020 did not materialize, as three signatories of the 2016 Roadmap Agreement � the National Umma Party, Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Sudan Liberation Movement-Minni Minnawi � insisted on the participation of non-signatories on grounds that they represent the Sudan Call alliance, rather than their respective organizations. The SPLM-N delegation refused to meet with the Government of Sudan to discuss its possible participation in the constitutional dialogue, stressing its unwillingness to engage on the issue unless Khartoum accepted its precondition to hold the constitutional dialogue outside Sudan � a request rejected by the country’s then-Government.

The SPLM-N leader claims that the people represented by his organization are entitled to the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement negotiated for the South, he said. That means that three contentious issues must be addressed by future negotiations by the SPLM-N and the new Sudanese authorities: whether SPLM-N can claim the right to self-determination in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States; the extent to which the application of Islamic law can be suspended in those areas; and the possibility for SPLM-N to keep its armed forces in a post-conflict setting. Noting that Sudan’s political transition could allow for redefining the relation between the centre and its peripheries in a way that ends discrimination based on ethnicity, religion and territorial belonging, he said that, building on the unilateral cessation of hostilities declared by Sudan’s authorities and SPLM-N, he will encourage parties to engage on resolving the conflicts on the basis of a new political dispensation.

Statements

RODNEY M. HUNTER (United States) welcomed the generally calm security situation, and cooperation on oil resources in the border region. While the political situations are fluid, a stabilized security environment indicates great potential for both countries to resolve border disputes. Noting that the Council has not had a status update on the African Union’s efforts despite repeated requests, he said the bloc’s sustained engagement is essential to ensure that both countries remain committed and engaged to resolve their issues. Recalling that the Council agreed in November 2018 that an improved security situation required adjustments in UNISFA’s mandate, he said the agreed reduction has not been implemented. He pressed Sudan to provide visas in that context. He also called for a reasonable reduction of uniformed personnel, stressing that the positive bilateral developments must be reflected in the mission’s force levels and composition. An increase in police numbers was also needed, as is a reorientation towards a police-style mission to help reduce criminal threats. He advocated for a civilian leadership component to facilitate engagement towards a political resolution, as well as improvements in the quality and quantity of information provided to the Council by the Secretary-General.

TAREQ M.A.M. ALBANAI (Kuwait) expressed concern over the report’s reference to the presence of military elements from outside the area, demonstrating the need to accelerate the creation of an Abyei police service. Voicing hope that the countries would continue to hold meetings in the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee format, and uphold benchmarks in resolutions 2445 (2018), he welcomed UNISFA’s central role in Abyei and called for both facilitating its work and a careful, gradual approach to its efforts to maintain stability. He welcomed the proposal to reduce its military personnel, as well as the selection of Jordan to provide a formed police unit, which he hoped would start its work as soon as possible. The Council must address the Secretary-General’s recommendations before including them in a resolution to renew the UNISFA mandate. Welcoming progress made by both countries in implementing the border demarcation benchmark, he said any future steps by the Council should be made in consultation with � and with the consent of � the parties, which is among the peacekeeping principles.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) said UNISFA’s presence is essential to the stability of Abyei and the border region. Attaching great importance to its efforts to facilitate engagement, he said improved intercommunal relations have led to the creation of the Amiet common market, a vibrant economic hub that provides opportunities for peaceful coexistence for communities in Abyei. He welcomed improved implementation of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism. The Council must encourage Sudan and South Sudan to resolve their outstanding issues and he voiced regret that little progress has been made in implementing the Agreement of 20 June 2011 on temporary arrangements for the administration and security of the Abyei Area, including the formation of joint interim institutions. He cited a lack of withdrawal of forces from the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone and establishment of customs and immigration offices. Noting changes in UNISFA’s operating environment since 2011, he said the priorities are to preserve the gains made. He saw the merits in the Secretary-General’s proposal to reconfigure UNISFA to reinvigorate the political process, underscoring the importance of securing support from Sudan and South Sudan, and considering the views of troop- and police-contributing countries.

ANNE GUEGUEN (France) said the political process is not making sufficient progress, notably in relation to the Agreement of 20 June 2011. She called for relaunching the political process so that the situation does not become a frozen conflict, stressing that only engagement by the parties will allow for a lasting solution. She underscored the importance of the Abyei Police Service and convening of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee, asking the briefers about the prospects for such, as the status quo is not tenable. Political changes in Sudan are an opportunity that must be seized for relaunching the political process. Stressing that UNISFA’s reconfiguration must continue, she said the Secretary-General’s report provides a good basis for the Council’s efforts and expressed support for a strengthened police component to prevent intercommunity tensions. She expressed regret that Jordan’s unit has not been deployed owing to a lack of visas and called on Sudan to act in that regard. She also supported a strengthened civilian component, as well as an adjustment to the military component and consideration of a reduction in overall personnel numbers.

JOSA� MANUEL TRULLOLS YABRA (Dominican Republic), welcomed the relative calm in Abyei but voiced concern about ongoing tensions, as well as the presence of some armed elements in the Area. Echoing expressions of frustration over the lack of progress and the intensification of rhetoric, he hoped those would not discourage the parties from building on the positive progress achieved to date. Much remains to be done, he said, warning against allowing the issue to become another conflict without a solution. Expressing concern about the vulnerability and humanitarian needs of the population, he said a renewed conflict could have devastating effects on both sides and warned against allowing recent political events in Khartoum to impact the situation in Abyei. He welcomed UNISFA’s efforts to involve more local women leaders in its work and progress made in the protection of civilians. In addition, he voiced optimism about recent progress made in five core parameters, including the reactivation of the Joint Border Commission. For progress to be sustainable, both Sudan and South Sudan must do more, and the Council should seek a way to ensure that UNISFA’s operations become more effective.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) agreed that women must be involved in community protection. The Government of South Sudan should accelerate the building of its police force, while Khartoum should facilitate the issuance of necessary visas. Expressing concern about rising inflation, he welcomed efforts to support the population through the provision of food and basic social services. On the issue of border demarcation, he welcomed recent progress but said not enough has been achieved on the withdrawal of forces from the demilitarized zones. Reiterating his support for the Secretary-General’s recommendations on improving UNISFA’s civilian component, he expressed hope that despite difficult conditions the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan will be able to make progress together, and that the Council continue to provide its support.

STEPHEN HICKEY (United Kingdom) said it is vital for Sudanese and South Sudanese officials to continue to cooperate despite the political upheaval taking place in Sudan. Welcoming overall calm in the last six months, he nevertheless shared other speakers’ concerns over intercommunal tensions, as well as the rhetoric and criminality that exacerbate them. Expressing support for crucial judicial initiatives and the full deployment of police assets, he voiced concern over delays in issuing visas and asked the representative of Sudan to provide an update on that matter. Turning to the humanitarian situation, he said the United Kingdom is providing $40 million in emergency support in 2019 and urged all United Nations Member States to assist in that regard. Expressing support for a six-month extension of UNISFA’s mandate, he said the mission needs to adapt to the situation on the ground, and voiced support for efforts to enhance its civilian component to facilitate closer work with the African Union.

KAREN VAN VLIERBERGE (Belgium) welcomed that security in the Abyei Area is relatively calm, noting nonetheless that challenges in the political, humanitarian and economic fields could worsen current tensions. The ongoing presence of UNISFA is crucial. Noting that the responsibility for implementing the 2011 and 2012 agreements rests with the Governments, she said no progress has been made in that regard since November. The use of warlike language noted by the mission underscores the urgency of breathing new life into dialogue. The Council must encourage Sudan and South Sudan to create common mechanisms for border demarcation and foster a political solution to resolve the Abyei issue. She called on the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel to revitalize its support for dialogue among the parties, noting that UNISFA was established in 2011 and must be adapted to fit the current environment. She supported the Secretary-General’s recommendations to strengthen the mission’s civilian component, pressing the Council to adapt its military and police components in the absence of national security forces, and calling on the parties to facilitate UNIFSA’s operations, notably by issuing visas.

TIEMOKO MORIKO (CAte d’Ivoire) expressed concern about criminality in the Area, welcoming the commitment of community leaders to engage in dialogue to settle disputes. He encouraged UNISFA and relevant stakeholders to continue working in that direction, while pressing Sudan and South Sudan to establish a joint police service and allow for the rapid deployment of a formed police unit. He called on all parties to accelerate implementation of such obligations. On the political front, he voiced regret that parties have not seized recent improvements in relation to speed of implementation on the 2011 Agreement. He urged the parties to advance the rapid deployment for joint administration of Abyei and called on local communities to abstain from actions that could jeopardize the current stability. Welcoming UNISFA’s efforts to stabilize the Area, he said the Council’s extension of its mandate to October 2019 recognizes progress made by the parties. Sudan and South Sudan must see this as a signal to foster a lasting solution to border disputes, through implementation of their respective agreements. To optimize UNISFA’s efficiency and to preserve gains, he advocated adjusting its mandate to reflect positive trends observed on ground. He noted the call to strengthen its political aspect in support of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel and welcomed the renewal of the mandate in light of the Secretary-General’s recommendations.

YAO SHAOJUN (China) said that over the last six months, both countries have cooperated with UNISFA in discharging its mandate, stressing that settlement of the issue has bearing on the region’s stability. Encouraging the Council to support the resolution of African issues in African ways, he said it should also promote cooperation between Sudan and South Sudan to resolve the Abyei issue, which is necessary in order to achieve a political solution. The Council should also respect the sovereignty of both countries, listen carefully to their views and support organizations including the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). The international community meanwhile should help the Governments work together in establishing judicial and other institutions in the Area. UNISFA is important for Abyei’s stability and he voiced support for renewal of its mandate. The Council should listen to the respective Governments, the African Union and troop-contributing countries on the renewal of its mandate, while the Secretariat should allow for the peacekeeping force to facilitate settlement of the issue.

DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said the bilateral agreement concluded in 2012 in Addis Ababa, as well as relevant Council resolutions, form a good basis for cooperation between the parties. Relations have warmed significantly since September 2018, with Khartoum taking part in IGAD negotiations. Calling on the parties to build on that momentum, he said UNISFA’s work is critical to maintaining calm. Regretting that not all the provisions of relevant agreements are being implemented, he said the Russian Federation would prefer to see more regular interaction between the parties and expressed hope that more progress will be made on the benchmarks laid out in resolution 2438 (2018). While success depends on political will � which the parties have demonstrated � it also depends on the developments on the ground. Warning against drawing down UNISFA’s support, he backed the Secretary-General’s proposal to extend the mission’s mandate for another six months. Meanwhile, the Secretariat’s proposals regarding its civilian component should be considered, taking into account the views of both Khartoum and Juba.

VICTOR MANUEL ELA� ELA (Equatorial Guinea) expressed concern about ongoing challenges in Abyei related to the maintenance of public order. The parties should continue with their joint plans to establish a police force in the Area, with the granting of all necessary visas. Now is not the time to take new decisions with regard to Sudan, he said, emphasizing that the new Government should be given time to reveal its intentions. The Council should focus on maintaining stability and helping the parties to implement already-agreed commitments. UNISFA’s mandate renewal is timely, and its staffing level should not be reduced. Finally, he stressed that the 2011 agreement is the only way to achieve lasting stability and called upon the parties to recommit themselves to their provisions.

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) noted with regret that no progress has been made in the implementation of the 2011 agreement. We are concerned that the lack of genuine political process between Sudan and South Sudan solidifies the administrative vacuum which exists in Abyei, she said, adding that the absence of effective formal authorities results in limited law enforcement and a lack of good governance and the rule of law. Encouraging the parties to build on their recent rapprochement, she said every peacekeeping mission, including UNISFA, must be able to adapt to changing realities on the ground. Noting with regret that the increase in the mission’s police force � agreed to in the 2018 mandate renewal � has yet to be implemented, she called on Sudan’s authorities to facilitate the UNIFSA’s reconfiguration and supported the renewal of its mandate for six months.

NICHOLA NAKULUNGA SABELO (South Africa), welcoming UNISFA’s efforts to reduce intercommunal violence, nevertheless noted with concern that such violence continues and that the presence of armed groups has the potential to inflame those tensions. In the absence of an Abyei police force, the United Nations police force should continue to advise and mentor the community protection committees on maintaining law and order. Noting that discussions on the upcoming extension of UNISFA’s mandate should take into consideration the evolution of the current political situation in Sudan, she warned against taking decisions that could aggravate that political environment and called for efforts to ensure that the mission is fit for purpose. Despite progress, Abyei remains one area which could unravel many gains achieved by both parties. Welcoming the meetings of the Joint Border Commission as a noteworthy milestone, she said the Council should continue to encourage the implementation of all outstanding agreements leading to a final determination of Abyei and all its outstanding issues.

CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany), Council President for April, spoke in his national capacity to call for a swift handover to a civilian-led Government in Sudan, noting that gains achieved thus far should not be lost. In South Sudan, the peace process is at a crossroads with security arrangements and border issues outstanding. Calling UNISFA a crucial stabilizing presence in the absence of a political settlement on Abyei and Government structures to address socioeconomic deficits, he said the mission must be equipped to address such challenges. He voiced support for the Secretary-General’s recommendations, noting that UNISFA should address criminality, and support the community-level peace process, mediation and dialogue. There is an obligation for UNISFA to support the High-Level Implementation Panel and the parties alike, he said, echoing the need to enhance its police component and urging Sudan to issue the visas without delay. The Council must enhance the mission’s civilian component and its human rights monitoring ability, notably for countering sexual and gender-based violence and impunity. Parties must also resume meetings of the joint oversight committee, he said, underscoring the need for women’s full participation in all stages of the political and peacebuilding processes.

OMER AHMED MOHAMED AHMED (Sudan) underscored his Government’s commitment to all agreements signed with South Sudan, notably the Agreement of 20 June 2011 on temporary arrangements for Abyei, and the 2012 Cooperation Agreement between the Republic of the Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan. Underscoring the centrality of the June 2011 agreement � the bedrock of all relevant Abyei arrangements, including UNISFA’s deployment � he said both sides had agreed it would remain in effect until the final status of Abyei is determined, and that there would be no change to UNISFA’s mandate without the approval of Sudan, South Sudan and Ethiopia as the sole troop-contributing country to the mission. The question of Abyei should be considered in the overall framework of relations between the countries, he said, citing progress in many aspects of their relationship, notably after Sudan hosted peace negotiations which led to the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan in 2018. Recalling that the 2011 agreement contains provisions for the establishment of joint institutions, including a joint police unit, he said these are critical institutions for administration, service provision, enhancing co-existence among communities, and settling the final status of Abyei. Calling the Abyei Protocol � part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement � a main pillar for the Council’s work, he said it stipulates that Abyei is an integral part of Sudan. This is a historical fact, he insisted, stressing that any arrangements under the agreement must stem from recognition of this fact and that Sudan is committed to helping UNISFA fulfil its mandate, seamlessly and in full.

CECILIA A.M. ADENG (South Sudan) expressed optimism that the process begun by the two sisterly countries towards resolving the issue of Abyei will continue, facilitating a resolution on the latter’s final status. The Governments of Sudan and South Sudan are committed to the implementation of UNISFA’s mandate and request the Council’s continued support, she said.

The representative of Sudan, speaking again, recalled that resolution 2438 (2018) outlines that the UNISFA police unit is to be augmented, which requires various measures and consultations. The Council and the African Union also have stated that the formation of essential institutions for Abyei is the only way to define the Area’s final status. Sudan’s relevant authorities are working to create favourable conditions to consider the issuance of visas for police personnel, in line with the relevant resolutions. However, we need more time for this, he said, expressing hope that the Council would allow more time in order to prevent any negative impacts from unfolding on the ground. The situation in Sudan is changing and such events have impacted all State institutions. The issuance of visas for the police component is ongoing within the relevant institutions.

Source: United Nations

Death of Senator Richard Lugar

It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the death of Senator Richard Lugar on April 28. Senator Lugar is well known for his contributions to the diplomatic history of the United States, particularly in the field of non-proliferation. He was twice selected to serve as the Chairperson of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. We are grateful for his tireless work and advocacy to reduce global threats from weapons of mass destruction.

Following the end of the Cold War, Senator Lugar partnered with Senator Sam Nunn from Georgia, to create the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program. The program assisted the states of the former Soviet Union to get rid of their nuclear weapons rather than risk having them fall into the hands of terrorists and rogue states. This program also led to upgraded security at weapons sites and efforts to find alternative employment for Soviet weapons scientists.

Senator Lugar was a strong advocate to end apartheid in South Africa, and his efforts to impose trade and economic sanctions on the apartheid regime hastened its demise and contributed to the creation of a democratic South Africa.

Senator Lugar will also be remembered for his vision in co-sponsoring the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study program (YES). Created in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the YES program has brought more than 12,000 foreign high school students from countries with significant Muslim populations to the United States to attend American schools and live in American families and has sent more than 500 American high school students to live and study abroad.

Senator Lugar remained devoted to the YES program, meeting with the program participants every year in Washington. While he will be missed, his legacy will live on as both American and foreign high school students continue to learn more about each other and how to work towards a brighter future.

Source: U.S. State Department

Ebola situation worsening in DR Congo, amidst growing ‘funding gap’ UN health agency warns

Strengthening both security and the Ebola response effort is essential to contain the growing outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), UN health agency’s officials said on Tuesday, following a visit to the epicentre of what is already the worst outbreak in the country’s history.

Following their visit to Butembo, to express gratitude and show support to staff, in the wake of the recent attack at a treatment centre that killed Doctor Richard Mouzoko and left two others injured, World Health Organization (WHO) chief, Tedros Ghebreyesus and the agency’s Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, reiterated their commitment to defeat Ebola.

During the visit, Dr. Moeti and Mr. Tedros assessed the next steps needed to adjust the response, after meeting local political, business and religious leaders, calling on them to accelerate their efforts to help stabilize conditions on the ground.

Most Ebola response activities, including community engagement, vaccination, and case investigation, have been re-launched following a slowdown in the wake of the attack, however a rise in reported cases in recent weeks is straining resources even further, WHO said in the statement.

We will continue to adjust the response, as we have done for each context in each community, said Dr. Moeti, calling for action. In the end, it is only through ownership by all the affected communities that the outbreak will end. Some would have Ebola drive us apart. We can only defeat it if we all work together, she added.

We are entering a phase where we will need major shifts in the response, said Mr. Tedros, adding that the challenges can only be tackled if the international community steps in to fill the sizeable funding gap, which is around 50 per cent underfunded.

Pride and respect for WHO staff

The head of WHO said also in the statement that Dr. Mouzoko’s death had moved him profoundly and added that the much-respected epidemiologist deployed by the agency was on his mind the whole time of the visit, as they met with other dedicated colleagues.

Dr. Moeti underlined that colleagues have been through something unimaginable and yet they were willing to continue the vital work.

Reiterating the importance of having the security situation under control for both staff and local people, she said WHO would continue to work with various groups and embed their response at the community level.

More than 1,200 confirmed and probable cases of Ebola have been recorded since the outbreak began, with more than 760 deaths confirmed.

Source: UN News Centre

UN aid teams scramble to reach ‘most remote places’ cut off by Cyclone Kenneth in Mozambique

With heavy rains expected to continue in the coming days across northern Mozambique, access to the most remote areas affected by Cyclone Kenneth remains difficult the UN warned on Tuesday.

Humanitarian affairs coordination office, OCHA, reported that heavy rains had paused in the morning around the coastal city of Pemba, with aid workers going flat out to prepare relief flights � including medical supplies � to the island of Matemo, one of the worst-hit by the cyclone.

Emergency staff will also do further damage and needs assessments while they can, as more rain is expected in the coming days, turning the response into a start-stop operation, said OCHA Spokesperson, Jens Laerke, briefing reporters in Geneva.

The Government of Mozambique is reporting that at least 38 people died during the second massive cyclone to hit southern Africa in six weeks, following on from the devastating impact of Cyclone Idai. Kenneth partially or fully destroyed nearly 35,000 houses, close to 200 classrooms; and at least 14 health facilities have been hit, OCHA reported.

Around 21,000 people are now sheltering in accommodation centres, after their villages were wiped out, said Mr. Laerke, adding that some staff who had made an aerial survey, said that some villages looked like they had been bulldozed. For the initial response, $10 million has been released for Mozambique by the head of OCHA, together with $3 million for the hard-hit Comoros Islands.

‘Despair evident’ as communities clean up

Spokesperson for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), Charlie Yaxley, said that access to the most remote places remains difficult, with reports that some remain completely isolated and in need of rescue. Although the northern areas hit by Kenneth are less populated than other parts of the country, the damage and flooding had been extensive.

Drawing on eye witness accounts from UNHCR teams on the ground in Pemba since the weekend, he said parts of the city had been completely flooded. In the most deprived areas, houses had collapsed, and flash floods left mud and trash all over the streetsCommunities are organizing themselves to clean up streets and remove the sand and muck brought by the storms. Despair is evident.

Thousands reached by World Food Programme

In the worst affected areas people have lost everything said Herve Verhoosel, Spokeperson for the World Food Programme (WFP), noting that thanks to early positioning of supplies, the agency has already reached 11,500 beneficiaries, beginning on Saturday morning.

The ravages caused by the cyclone are compounded by the impact it has on agriculture, livelihoods and the food and nutrition security situation. With preliminary Government assessments showing 31,300 hectares of crops lost, hitting at the peak of the harvest season, the short/mid/longterm availability of food is worrisome, added Mr. Verhoosel.

He said the agency had already been providing food distributions and nutrition support in some affected districts since last year. WFP is already working in Mozambique to increase resilience to climatic shocksThis focus becomes even more crucial, and additional funding in that regard after the emergency, will be essential to ensure we can help the country recover, he added.

Source: UN News Centre