|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator
on Humanitarian Aid in Syria
Despite very difficult and dangerous conditions, humanitarian aid organizations were committed to continuing their work in Syria, United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said today.
Ms. Amos told a Headquarters press conference via video link that Syria and neighbouring countries were suffering a humanitarian crisis on a scale rarely seen, with entire towns besieged and indiscriminate shelling and other violence having a terrible impact on ordinary people.
“Inside Syria, protecting civilians is paramount,” she continued. “The rise in the level of sectarian and sexual violence and ongoing human rights abuses are a major concern.” More than 100,000 had been killed and over 4 million displaced internally, added Ms. Amos, who is also Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.
Speaking from Lebanon in the company of Robert Watkins, Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon, she said she had been in Syria on Thursday, looking at ways to strengthen United Nations humanitarian efforts and support the Organization’s staff. She described her meetings with Syrian Government officials as “positive”, saying she hoped for progress in addressing some of the administrative problems of obtaining approval for humanitarian field operations, convoys and visas for aid workers.
She went on to say that, while in Damascus, she had discussed improving aid operations with members of the Government as well as humanitarian partners. “I also wanted to give support to United Nations staff who continue to work in very difficult circumstances,” she added. With UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) and the rest of the United Nations family, there were 4,500 staff working with non-governmental and community organizations in Syria to get help to those people needing it most, in both Government- and opposition-controlled areas.
“I was very proud of the commitment shown by the staff of the United Nations, by the volunteers of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and the staff of other humanitarian organizations when I had the opportunity to speak with them yesterday.”
She said the number of people who had fled Syria for neighbouring countries had now reached the 2 million mark. More than one third of the Syrian people urgently needed humanitarian aid, but the crisis was affecting everyone, she added, citing the depreciation of the local currency and the destruction of essential infrastructure, including health facilities. In Lebanon and other countries surrounding Syria, the refugee crisis was having “a very damaging effect on the economy, on the social structure and on host communities”.
Asked how much had been received in response to her appeal for the refugee effort in Syria and the wider region, she said that, out of the revised $4.4 billion total for the entire year, $1.1 billion had been raised, leaving a balance of some $3.3 billion. Although that figure had dropped “a little bit”, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and other partners within the United Nations family continued to push donors for additional funding. The figures had been raised significantly because the number of refugees needing help had also risen, she explained. To date, an average of about 40 per cent of the total amount sought for the entire region now stood at around $6 billion.
Responding to another question, she said it was inaccurate to say that the funds pledged during the Kuwait conference had not come through because most of the pledges made there had in fact already been fulfilled, leaving only “extremely small” amounts.
* *** *For information media • not an official record