Syria: humanitarian efforts falling short, UN relief chief warns, calling for end to violence

Under-Secretary-General for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, briefing the Security Council on the humanitarian situation in Syria. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

25 November 2014 – While humanitarians have made some progress in delivering much-needed supplies to the growing numbers of people in conflict-riven Syria, efforts by the United Nations and its partners are still falling short, a top UN relief official has said today, calling on the Security Council to push for an end to the violence that is destroying the country and destabilizing the region.

“This is a conflict that is affecting every Syrian,” said Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, in a briefing to the Security Council this afternoon on the humanitarian situation in Syria.

“We have lamented the possibility of a lost generation of Syria’s children: it is now a reality,” she added.

Specifically, Ms. Amos said Syria’s economy has contracted some 40 per cent since 2011, with unemployment now exceeding 54 per cent. In addition, three quarters of the population live in poverty, and school attendance has dropped by more than 50 per cent.

She noted that Council resolution 2165 – which was adopted in July and aims at increasing access to people most in need – has helped the UN to overcome some of the challenges faced, by permitting direct delivery to hundreds of thousands of people, complementing the considerable cross-border deliveries conducted by non-governmental organizations.

Since the adoption of the resolution and primarily through cross-border deliveries, supplies had been distributed in nearly all the hard-to-reach locations in the four governorates, leading to a more effective response, she noted.

However, no more than two besieged locations have been reached in any month since the adoption of the resolution, and only one location has been reached in each of the past two months.

“Despite the progress we have made, it is still not enough,” Ms. Amos stressed. “We have faced considerable challenges in implementing resolutions 2139 and 2165 and continue to fall short of meeting the humanitarian needs of all the people we aim to reach in Syria,” she added.

Council resolution 2139, from February 2014, demands that all parties, in particular the Syrian authorities, allow humanitarian access in Syria across conflict lines, in besieged areas and across borders.

At the passing of resolution 2139 in February, there were 220,000 people besieged by either Government or opposition forces; of those, 212,000 remain besieged today, she noted.

Ms. Amos also emphasized that the Council should continue to call for an end to the “bureaucratic steps” that hinder the delivery of assistance, as well as push for the inclusion of medical supplies in convoys and call for the lifting of sieges.

Noting that some 12.2 million people – more than 5 million of them children – are now in urgent need of humanitarian assistance throughout the country, Ms. Amos said that continuing violence has forced nearly half of Syrians from their homes, many of them multiple times.

Consequently, there are now some 7.6 million people displaced inside Syria. In addition, more than 3.2 million people have fled the country, with countries in the region and communities hosting refugees bearing an “enormous burden,” Ms. Amos stressed.

Moreover, Ms. Amos said that despite repeated calls from the Council for the fighting to stop and “hard-hitting” reports from the Independent Commission of Inquiry of ongoing abuses of human rights, civilians continue to be killed and injured every day in Syria.

“As the situation on the ground becomes more dangerous and difficult it is even more important that humanitarian actors are able to use all tools at their disposal to reach people in need, from within the country and across borders,” Ms. Amos said.

In addition, Ms. Amos emphasized that humanitarian appeals for Syria and the region remain critically underfunded, with the appeal less than half funded.

“Every day that passes more Syrian children, women and men die,” Ms. Amos said. “More look to the international community for help and support. We on the humanitarian side will continue to do all we can,” she added.

The conflict in Syria, which began in March 2011, has led to well over 150,000 deaths, and more than 680,000 people have been injured. It has also spawned a refugee crisis in which some 2.5 million people are being sheltered in neighbouring countries. At least 10.8 million people are in need of assistance inside Syria, including at least 6.5 million who are internally displaced.

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