Syria: Security Council demands immediate humanitarian access across battle lines

A family flees an active conflict neighbourhood in eastern Ghouta, Syria, using a cart to carry their belongings. Photo: UNICEF/Amer Al Shami

22 December 2015 – In its first resolution on Syria since granting the United Nations an enhanced role in seeking to end the five-year-long war, the Security Council today demanded that all parties, particularly the Syrian authorities, immediately open routes across conflict lines and borders to let in vital humanitarian aid.

In a unanimous resolution voicing grave concern at the lack of compliance with several previous Council demands for such access, the 15-member body expressed “outrage” at the escalating violence and killing of over 250,000 people, including tens of thousands of children, and renewed for a further 12 months its authorization of the demand for humanitarian access.

It requested “the Syrian authorities to expeditiously respond to all requests for cross-line deliveries submitted by the United Nations and their implementing partners, and to give such requests positive consideration,” and voiced grave concern that Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Al-Nusra Front (ANF) and groups linked to Al-Qaida are also hindering access.

It cited a decline in convoy approvals by the Syrian authorities, noting that as of 31 October, only 27 out of 91 UN inter-agency requests in 2015 had been approved in principle, and that between 2013 and 2015, the percentage of convoys approved in principle declined from 65 per cent to 29 per cent.

Today’s resolution follows the Council’s authorization on Friday for the UN to play an enhanced role in shepherding the opposing sides to talks for a political transition, endorsing a timetable for a ceasefire, a new constitution and elections, all under UN auspices.

The Council said it was “gravely distressed” by the devastating humanitarian situation in Syria, with urgent humanitarian aid, including medical assistance, now required by over 13.5 million people inside the country, 6.5 million of them internally displaced, 4.5 million living in hard-to-reach areas, including Palestinian refugees, and 393,700 trapped in besieged areas.

It voiced grave concern at the failure to implement its previous calls to cease all attacks against civilians and civilian objects, including schools, medical facilities and water supply, the indiscriminate use of weapons, including artillery, barrel bombs and airstrikes, indiscriminate shelling by mortars, car bombs, suicide attacks and tunnel bombs, and the use of starvation as a means of combat.

It condemned “the widespread use of torture, ill-treatment, arbitrary executions, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, sexual and gender-based violence, as well as all grave violations and abuses committed against children.”

In the areas of Syria under ISIL and ANF control it denounced the “violent extremist ideology and actions” for the “devastating humanitarian impact” on civilians, leading to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, and it called on all States to prevent the flow of foreign terrorists into the country.

Despite all the challenges, the Council noted that over the past year, the UN and its implementing partners continue to deliver lifesaving aid to millions of people in need across borders, including food for over 2.4 million people, non-food items for 1.6 million, medical supplies for 4.1 million treatments, and water and sanitation supplies for over 1.3 million people.

But it stressed that the number of people aided in hard-to-reach and besieged areas declining, voicing “grave alarm at the dire situation of the 393,700” trapped civilians, with the UN this year only able to reach 3.5 per cent them with health care, and only 0.7 per cent with food per month.

It also expressed “grave concern” for the more than 4.2 million refugees, including more than 3.2 million women and children, who have fled Syria, noting that the worsening crisis is further contributing to the movement of refugees and endangering regional stability.

It reiterated “its deep appreciation for the significant and admirable efforts” by Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, to accommodate Syrian refugees.

But noted “with concern” that the international response continues to fall short of meeting the needs as assessed by host governments and the UN, “urging once again all Member States, based on burden-sharing principles” to adopt medium and long-term responses to alleviate the impact on communities, provide increased and predictable funding and increase resettlement efforts.

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