|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Appalled by Brutality of Syrian Conflict, Secretary-General Urges Strong Support
At Pledging Conference to Meet Massive Humanitarian Needs of $6.5 Billion
Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the second International Humanitarian Pledging Conference on Syria, in Kuwait City, 15 January:
Salaam Aleikum. Good morning.
I thank the Emir of Kuwait, His Highness Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah, for generously hosting this Conference in Kuwait City for the second time.
His Highness has again just demonstrated his outstanding commitment to this cause with a pledge of $500 million. I sincerely thank him for his exemplary leadership.
We owe a great debt of gratitude to the Government, people and non-governmental organizations of Kuwait for their enormous contributions in helping Syria and its neighbours to cope with the devastating effects of the conflict.
One year ago, when many of us met here, the situation in Syria was extremely grave; 4 million Syrians needed help; there were 700,000 refugees at that time.
One year later, we face a regional crisis and humanitarian crisis. Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt are now home to more than 3 million Syrians who have fled. Well over 100,000 people have been killed. A great many others have been injured.
Half the total Syrian population, nearly 9.3 million individuals, urgently need humanitarian aid; nearly half of them are children. More than 80 per cent of Palestinian refugees inside Syria need humanitarian aid. I am especially concerned about reports of starvation.
The attacks on civilians and homes are unrelenting. I am especially concerned that the sides are using violence against women and girls to degrade and dehumanize their opponents. I call for an immediate end to these abuses, which harm individuals and undermine Syria’s future.
The fighting is damaging stability and reversing development gains across the region. This conflict also saw the worst use of weapons of mass destruction in the twenty-first century. The world is united in horror to ensure that chemical weapons will not be used again in Syria — but military attacks continue to target schools, health-care facilities and residential areas.
Syria once had a strong health infrastructure. Now two out of five hospitals — 40 per cent — no longer function. In some areas, half the doctors have been forced to flee — just when they are most desperately needed.
More than 2 million children are out of school. I welcome the No Lost Generation initiative by UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), UNHCR (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), Save the Children, World Vision and other key partners to provide learning and restore hope. The families behind the statistics are freezing through one of the harshest winters in decades.
I am appalled by the violence and brutality of this conflict.
I have visited Syrian refugees in Jordan and Turkey, and just yesterday in Iraq. I have dispatched my Deputy Secretary-General to Lebanon. In Kurdistan Governorate, I met families in the Kawrgosik camp. I was there to show my solidarity. Their suffering is heartbreaking; their resilience is admirable. They need us to prove that the world stands with them now.
I heard from the World Health Organization (WHO) about how they are providing wheelchairs to persons with disabilities who were injured in the attacks.
I met a couple who lives in a UNHCR tent with their two daughters. The parents are worried about keeping their children warm during the winter. They need so much in terms of food, shelter and services — but the father said most of all, they need peace.
I told the refugees: Never despair. Have hope. I also told them we will do our best to push for a political solution to the conflict. All of the affected families know that humanitarian aid can save lives — but it cannot resolve this crisis.
The International Conference on Syria, set to begin on 22 January, aims to bring the Syrian Government and opposition to the negotiating table. I hope this will launch a political process, establish a transitional governing body with full executive power, and most importantly, end the violence.
But, even under the best circumstances, the fighting has set Syria back by years, even decades. Some parts of the country have just one hour’s electricity each day. Many people cannot be sure their drinking water is safe. Public health is in crisis. The nightmare of polio — which had been eradicated from the region — is back.
Any political recovery will need to be built on sustained humanitarian aid and then long-term development assistance. I am proud of the United Nations humanitarian agencies and our NGO (non-governmental organization) partners working inside Syria, and with refugees in the region. And I am grateful for the support they have received from the international community.
I pay tribute to the courageous relief workers bringing aid to Syrians in need. They operate in extremely violent and dangerous circumstances. The Red Pillar in Syria — the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) — are critical to reaching the most vulnerable and besieged people. I thank them for their vital contributions.
Workers from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and others are on the frontlines of our efforts to save lives. Their remarkable bravery should be matched by full protection and support. Since the violence began, 32 staff from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and 14 UN personnel have been killed. We mourn their sacrifice — and we pledge to carry on their mission to help civilians caught in the crossfire.
UN agencies and international NGOs have some 1,500 dedicated women and men working throughout Syria. Another 3,700 staff of the UN Relief and Works Agency [for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] — UNRWA — are responding to the desperate needs of Palestinian refugees inside the country. Thanks to your generosity, humanitarian workers are reaching millions of people.
The momentum for our efforts came from the first High-level Pledging Conference in Kuwait. I thank again the Emir of Kuwait, His Highness Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah. At the time, he made a generous and inspiring pledge of $300 million.
Forty-three donors made pledges totalling $1.5 billion in new funding last year. These funds helped to provide safe drinking water for 10 million people in Syria. They enabled health-care organizations to service more than 3.5 million people, and to vaccinate more than a million children. They helped to pay for food for nearly three and a half million people.
As we gather again here in Kuwait, I would like to thank the countries of the Gulf region, and particularly the Emir, Government and people of Kuwait, for their generosity and humanitarian leadership. Kuwaiti organizations, including the Kuwaiti Red Crescent, the International Islamic Charitable Organization and Direct Aid, are having a great impact, not only in Syria and this region, but around the world.
The refugee crisis is causing great hardship and raising tensions throughout the region. It is directly linked to increasing instability and conflict, car bombs and sectarian violence in Iraq and Lebanon. And it is undermining economies’ development.
A joint World Bank-United Nations study estimated that the conflict has cut GDP (gross domestic product) growth in Lebanon by nearly 3 per cent annually, leading to total losses of up to $7.5 billion. In Jordan, official assessments show that the cost of hosting Syrian refugees could exceed $1.5 billion dollars. Turkey and Iraq are also incurring huge costs.
We must do more to support host countries. We have the Stabilization Road Map in Lebanon and Jordan’s National Resilience Plan. We are also working with host Governments and other partners to build resilience through a comprehensive regional strategy, which will be finalized in April. It will bring together the United Nations, the private sector, bilateral and multilateral donors, and civil society to address longer-term development and rebuilding priorities.
I ask for your generous support. No country, no people should face hardship or calamity for helping Syrians in need. It is vital for this region and our world that the burden is shared. Let us reward the compassion of Syria’s neighbours with generosity and solidarity.
Humanitarian and development agencies, both within and outside the United Nations, face unprecedented demands. I am asking for strong international support to meet these massive humanitarian needs. We estimate that we need $6.5 billion this year.
Humanitarian aid is the difference between life and death, hope and despair. It has already assisted millions of people affected by this crisis. Your pledges will help us to reach more than 10 million people inside Syria, and millions more in host communities in neighbouring countries this year.
I count on you to show the Syrian people that the world is here to help. I thank you very much for your leadership and commitment. Shukran jazeelan.
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