THE DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
Sunday 05 November – Port-au-Prince
Statement by the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ms. Amina J. Mohammed
Thank you very much. Usually we say gentlemen of the press when there are some ladies in the press but there are no ladies [in the room] so we have a way to go.
Ladies and gentlemen thank you very much,
I want to begin by thanking the President, the Prime Minister many government officials we’ve met, but especially the communities, the heroes that we saw working at the front line in the communities that we went to, many from civil society and the special place for the victims of cholera that we had time to speak with and to hear from them directly their concerns, their aspirations.
This visit is about the Secretary General’s reaffirmation of the importance of Haiti to the United Nations. It comes when there is a new era, new era of new leadership at the United Nations and Haiti, in the Government and also in the United Nations.
It’s important that we acknowledged the work that has been done, albeit we may have fallen short, certainly we have seen efforts that have been made, that have yielded results, such that we have 99% reduction in the transmission of cholera and I think the people of Haiti, the United Nations, the partners that we’ve had have all had a big role to play in this and should be congratulated.
Having said that, the glass is half full and the other half we must fill. In our visits to the field, we visited communities that had suffered from cholera, in fact we just came back today from what I would say is the epicenter in Mirebalais. But yesterday we visited communities still suffering where we had centers [where] there were children and women who had contracted cholera. We also went to the communities to see the rapid response teams doing fantastic work in identifying and trying to deal with the homes who had children [affected by cholera]—mostly children and women. This is where the burden falls.
While I was Lucky enough to meet one or two children that have recovered there may be many that don’t and that’s where our hearts are heavy. We have to do something about it.
Today’s discussions as we spoke about cholera was about people being fatigued, being tired about when will the United Nations come and deal with the end—zero transmission of cholera. And while we acknowledged that it is taking a long time, we also know that there are lessons to learn and that it’s never too late because every one life matters.
And so in our visits, our energy has been increased, our commitment, our passion to do what we need to do with our Special Envoy Josette Sheeran, and of course Susan Page who is holding fort here and Dr. Diallo who as a medical person has a heart to know what it is about because that has been his life’s work.
We also visited some communities in Saint-Michel [de l’Atalaye] where we saw community efforts by the church and women and men and young people, very young. I think they were about nine, ten, eleven, who were involved in bringing an end to open defecation in their communities, in building toilets in their communities. Because if we are really to end transmission of cholera we have to think about the water and sanitation. We have to think about how we approach the whole issue of sanitation and that means that behaviors have to change. And here we see the partners coming together with the communities and succeeding in small places. Which means we can take it to everyone. We can leave no one behind.
We also visited with the President, his Caravan. And there are many [who] asked about the caravan and where it is going. And what we saw was a vision that was underscoring the importance of infrastructures, it was underscoring the importance of investing in Haiti in agriculture, in roads, in water and sanitation. And this is the first step. And that first step is important because it signals the direction in which the leadership of Haiti needs to go. However, it is fraught with many, many challenges. In order to take what the Caravan represents to scale and to reach every Haitian, it requires partners to support the rule of law, strong institutions and human rights. It require for us to imbed that capacity in the institutions that needs to service Haiti. It requires investments that would give us the internally generated revenue that we can pay for those services so that we are not talking about whether we free the prison or whether in fact we do health or education.
For Haiti you need to do all [of these], but to do all is going to take us some time. The United Nations is not here for a quick fix. We're here for the long term. Which is why we know that Haiti embraces the 2030 agenda, the 17 sustainable development goals. And it is off the back of those that we would not only see the end of the transmission of cholera but we will also see a bright future for the young people of Haiti today. And that is where our hope lies, that's where we are committed to, that's the message we bring from Antonio Gutierrez, the Secretary General of the United Nations.
I am a Nigerian so I know what it is like to be in a country that is developing, that has many many challenges. We have a huge population. We have BoKo Haram. We have militancy in the Niger Delta. But we still hope, we still achieve and we still try to lay foundations every time we get the chance and that is what is important for us, to have that hope. And the United Nations has but to be the custodian of that around the world.
I'd like to end by saying there is an incredibly important part of this journey that we have not yet spoken to and that is the sexual exploitation and abuse. The Secretary General on this front has expressed his zero tolerance. On his watch, this will, if it does ever happen, this will be taken seriously and we will turn every stone upside down, inside out, to make sure the victims are given their due justice. It's incredibly important that we have zero tolerance from within the United Nations to outside to what happens on our watch. We must be held accountable and responsible.
And so, in total, I think [while] we have the United Nations here in Haiti, it is important that we also understand that we have to rebuild confidence of the Haitian people and we are willing to do that in this new era. And what we are saying is collaboration for the short, medium and long-term is where we believe that we would have results and we would see a future befitting, overtaking the 2030 agenda.
I thank you.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Kiskeya: There has been a call by the UN to raise more than $ 200 million to support the victims of cholera in Haiti. Donors had not responded to this call. Where are we with this issue? Do the donors respond positively now?
Thank you very much it is very important. Today we are in a world were unfortunately raising public finances is one of the most difficult things to challenge us. However we did put a call out to members states and there are many who have pledged some of those finances to the Fund. We are not stopping and waiting for public finance. We are also looking to see how we can leverage other money that can come from innovative financing in the financial sector. We will need a lot more money—not just for Cholera but for Haiti. And I think the message that we need to get out there is that while we need to address the very serious challenge to finish that last mile, we will require a lot more investment to come this way and we have to do two things. We have to show how Haiti is ready as an enabling environment for getting those resources in and how when public resources come in we have a clear pathway to how to spend that with the victims and the communities of cholera. Of course much has happened in preparation, and what we are doing now is reviewing and we hope after this visit very shortly Josette Sheeran will come back and will continue to try to raise the funds that we’ve had. Let’s not forget that hundreds of millions of dollars have already been put in, to get to 99% in terms of transmission. It took quite a lot of resources and here we hope that for the last mile we will get the resources necessary. This morning we visited a hospital in Mirebalais. It was very clear to us that we also need to look beyond water and sanitation to investments that are needed to end the transmission of cholera. And in this case we really looked at the laboratory services, and what is needed to make sure it is not just centralized but that we are decentralized.
Kiskeya: local civil society groups are demanding financial compensation for the victims, the dead and those still suffering from cholera sequelae.
We have ongoing consultations about that. What I think is important is that the communities that have suffered from the results of the tragedy of cholera, we need to find a holistic way of investing in everything. That they have better lives tomorrow than they have today. We heard from many victims, not just the effect of cholera that it has had on their health but the stigma that goes with it. The loss of livelihood, the loss of an education, and I think these are things that we need to think about holistically and bring back those communities that suffered from cholera.
What we heard today from the community, from leaders, was about what they needed in terms of infrastructure. They understood that we wanted to treat and to prevent cholera but beyond that they were asking for specific investments in water, in sanitation, in roads. These are major investments and we would like to deepen our consultations with the communities to really be clear about the whole package that we should have in terms of investing in those communities affected.
Vision 2000: sur les 200 millions de dollars vous avez dit que quelques pays ont déjà répondu favorablement, combien ont été collectés.
Let me say that over  countries have indicated that they will contribute. I think that the amount we have collected so far falls very short of what is needed. It is a call to the international community that we have to do better. So while we [could] have [had] commitment that are in excess of 40 million I would say that we are still very far short of where we need to be. And we need to do much more, much more quickly.
Vision 2000 : Vous avez dit que la caravane est un pas vers la bonne direction. M. Moreno le directeur de la BID avait fait la même déclaration mais l’opposition politique avait critiqué cette déclaration. Est-ce que vous avez visité les chantiers de la caravane pour faire une telle déclaration ?
Yes I have. I was there yesterday with President Jovenel [Moise]. We visited Les Cayes. We saw infrastructure that were built. We saw what he was doing in term of reforestation programme. We heard from him some of the challenges that we have in strengthening the institutions, he also impressed upon us, showing that we have to do more to strengthen government’s hand to carry these things out to scale. He asked for a lot more assistance on justice and the rule of law. So yes, we saw what was in the field which is why I saw it is going in the right direction. We are not there yet. The President has been here for 9 months and I think what we have to do is to communicate better on what that is and to feature it into a structured plan where you can see the scale of what is needed. I think what was impressive is that he used existing assets that you have in [the] government, that he came and he explained he saw a lot of heavy machinery that were derelict and he was able to resurrect it to begin the work. It is difficult to see leaders come in and the international community match the speed of the expectations of the people of the country and bring resources. So often leadership has to start something and perhaps that message then bring in more support. In this case what that initiative has done: you have support from the IDB and I hope you will get support from others. What we would say to the international community is first we must find the resources to end the transmission of cholera. This is the most important thing we have on the ground now. Second, we need much more to address those communities so we can put in investment so we can make sure they have a chance of a better life. And third, investments in the things that we have seen: investing in agriculture, infrastructure of water and sanitation and health and education. These are important parts of what we would like to do with the money coming in at the scale that it has to come in.