|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
7212th Meeting (AM)
Obstruction of Humanitarian Support for Besieged Syrians ‘Inhuman’,
Under-Secretary-General tells Security Council
Insisting 75 Per Cent of Aid Has Been
Distributed, Permanent Representative Says Report ‘Filled with Falsehoods’
With the lives of the Syrian people “hang[ing] in the balance”, there were no words to describe the frustration of aid workers forced to spend endless hours seeking permission to deliver assistance, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator told the Security Council today.
Valerie Amos, in her fourth briefing on the situation, told the 15-member body that resolution 2139 (2014), demanding access for aid workers, was “clear and unequivocal” for the 10.8 million people who depended on humanitarian support. However, as noted in the Secretary-General’s report on the resolution’s implementation (document S/2014/427), needs were outpacing efforts to access the 4.7 million people in hard-to-reach areas, a number that had increased by 1.2 million since the adoption of the resolution.
The level of obstruction was “inhuman and goes against the basic commitment to human dignity and rights” as set forth in the United Nations Charter, she stated. Since her last briefing, 241,000 people continued to live under siege conditions, unable to leave their communities. Only 2,467 people, or 1 per cent of them, had received much-needed food assistance.
Furthermore, countless hours had been spent negotiating and facilitating convoy movements in compliance with complicated and onerous administrative procedures. Yet, despite all those efforts and four years into the war, she pointed out that “we are unable to sustainably reach nearly half of those identified as being in direct need.”
The Government, she continued, had introduced new procedures for assistance delivery in hard-to-reach locations through United Nations hubs. Yet, those required three levels of approval, undermining previous agreements, resulting in two successive months of decline in aid deliveries.
Despite repeated calls for the free passage of all medicines and surgical equipment in aid convoys, she went on, certain items continued to be excluded or removed, depriving tens of thousands of people each month of their basic right to live-saving medical assistance. That deliberate denial of essential medicine and medical equipment “undermines the very basis of humanitarian action”, she emphasized. The ability of international non-governmental organizations to operate in the country also remained severely constrained owing to bureaucratic and operational impediments.
“There can be no justification for such action; deliberately obstructing humanitarian access and depriving civilians of access to services essential to their survival was unlawful and inhumane,” she declared. She recalled telling the Council in 2011 that 1 million Syrians needed humanitarian assistance; that figure now stood at 10.8 million. She also noted that many staff of United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations had been killed, injured, detained or taken hostage in the line of duty, adding that nearly 60 aid workers had lost their lives.
Although everyone had hoped the resolution’s adoption would significantly improve the situation, she regretted to inform the Council that the violence and attacks on civilians by all parties to the conflict and human rights abuses continued unabated, with devastating consequences.
There were numerous examples of targeted or indiscriminate attacks on civilians in densely populated areas, she said, citing the dropping of barrel bombs last week on a southern Syrian camp for displaced persons sheltering 350 families, killing dozens of people, including women and children. This morning, at least 15 civilians were reportedly killed and more than 30 injured as those bombs were dropped near Halawaniyeh Square. Also this morning, at least 15 civilians were killed by aerial strikes targeting numerous neighbourhoods, including an education facility and a library. On 7 June, 10 people had been killed and 55 others injured as a car bomb went off in Homs city.
Attacks on civilian infrastructure by armed opposition groups had increased in recent weeks, she said, resulting in significant damage or disruption to water, sewage or electricity networks in Aleppo, Idleb and Deir-ez-Zor. In Aleppo, as many as 1 million people remained without safe drinking water after one such attack. In Deir-ez-Zor, ongoing fighting with the deliberate denial of access into the governorate by various opposition groups had made it increasingly difficult for humanitarian organizations to deliver assistance. Over the course of two weeks, more than 40,000 people had been displaced to the eastern part of the city.
Following the briefing, Bashar Ja’afari, Syria’s representative, said the Under-Secretary-General’s statement was just a partial briefing of the humanitarian situation. Ignoring the multidimensional aspects, the information provided was filled with falsehoods and gaps. For example, the report’s indication of fighting between “radical forces” and “armed opposition groups including Al Sham and Al Nusra” did not state that those were, in fact, terrorist groups affiliated with Al-Qaida.
In addition, the briefing had referred inaccurately to “10.8 million needy” Syrians when in fact there were 4 million persons in need, he said. Documented numbers of foreign fighters had yet to be verified by the United Nations, and in that regard, the report’s preparers would have fared better had they laid blame on Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia for supporting those fighters. There were also double standards regarding sanctions and the humanitarian situation, he said, noting that some States had thrown huge amounts of money at the terrorists instead of responding to humanitarian needs.
The humanitarian assistance, 75 per cent of which had been distributed, had been overseen by the Syrian Government, he said, adding that the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees had covered the southern region. Furthermore, the Under-Secretary-General had said millions had received assistance, but she failed to mention that it was with the Syrian Government’s help. The report also ignored the fact that Turkey was hampering aid delivery.
He stated that Syria rejected the use by some countries of United Nations machinery to target others, in contravention of the Charter. Citing, in particular, the invasions of Iraq and Libya, he added that the United Nations was run by its Member States. It was not the private sector, he asserted, and it should not be used by certain States to “shed the blood of people”.
Before adjourning the meeting, Vitaly Churkin (Russian Federation), Council president for June, thanked members and staff for their cooperation and wished the same for the representative of Rwanda, who would assume the presidency in July.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 10:34 a.m.
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