Calling Syrian Conflict ‘Shameful Blot’ on World’s Conscience, Senior Official Urges Security Council to Consider Options to End Civilian Suffering

SC/11984
28 July 2015
7493rd Meeting (AM)

Calling Syrian Conflict ‘Shameful Blot’ on World’s Conscience, Senior Official Urges Security Council to Consider Options to End Civilian Suffering

With no humanitarian solutions to the crisis in Syria, the immense suffering of its people would only worsen until a political settlement ended the conflict, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today.

Syria today was “the most acute, unrelenting and shameful blot on the world’s humanitarian conscience”, said Stephen O’Brien, who recently replaced Valerie Amos as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.  There were no humanitarian solutions to the crisis and each day that passed without the parties upholding their most basic obligations to protect civilians only resulted in more lives lost, more people displaced and without access to basic services and a generation of children who struggled to obtain an education or to have any sense of a future for themselves.

A political solution was more urgent than ever to end this futile, hopeless cycle of brutality and violence, he said, urging the Council to consider its options through their eyes and the lens of the long-suffering Syrian people. 

“With much regret, my inaugural statement to the Council on the humanitarian situation in Syria continues where my predecessor left off, chronicling yet another month of grim statistics to convey the horrors of a brutal conflict and the immense suffering of beleaguered civilians, particularly women, children, the elderly and those living with disabilities,”  he said.

Briefing on the implementation of three Council resolutions adopted in 2014 by the parties to the conflict, Mr. O’Brien said that the Secretary-General’s latest report was no different from the previous ones in detailing the widespread violations of international humanitarian law and the inability or unwillingness of all parties to uphold their basic legal obligations.  About 12.2 million Syrians were in need of humanitarian assistance today and an estimated 220,000 people had been killed in the conflict, he said.  Over the past weeks, violence had continued to escalate across the country.  Not even residential neighborhoods or areas of community life, including markets, schools, hospitals and places of religious worship, were immune from attack.

Intense fighting had caused a surge in displacement, with over 1 million people having left their homes in 2015 so far, adding to the 7.6 million already internally displaced as of the end of 2014.  Another tragic milestone was reached when the number of registered refugees hit 4 million in early July, the largest refugee population from a single conflict worldwide in more than 25 years.

The parties to the conflict continued deliberately to cut essential services, such as water supply, to civilians, he said.  The lack of access to clean water had resulted in a significant increase in waterborne diseases during the summer, including acute diarrhoea, Hepatitis A and typhoid.  The conflict was also gradually destroying the country’s social and economic fabric, eroding development gains made over several generations, with 80 per cent of people living in poverty, food insecurity rampant amid rising prices and families and community networks destroyed.  The trauma and emotional toll on civilians should be not overlooked.  A child born in 2011 and entering school in 2015 would only know war.  The conflict was producing “a completely lost generation of educated Syrians, which bodes ill for the future we all hope Syria would one day start rebuilding”, he said. 

In the first months of 2015, United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations provided food assistance for 5.8 million people per month, medicine and supplies for nearly 9 million treatments, water and sanitation support for almost 5 million people and basic relief items, such as blankets, and other necessities of life for nearly 3 million people.  It was vital that humanitarian organizations had the necessary resources to do their work.  Yet, the response plan for Syria was only 27 per cent funded.

Warning against the dangerous security environment, he noted that 77 humanitarian workers had been killed since the start of the conflict, with 32 United Nations staff members detained or missing, including 28 from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).  Speedy and sustained access to those in need of assistance was vital as some 4.6 million people, or a quarter of the country’s population, lived in areas extremely hard to reach for humanitarian actors.  The Government approved an additional number of interagency convoys in June, but 45 convoy requests, including 33 made on 1 July, remained pending, he said, urging the approval of those requests.

On Wednesday, 29 July, Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria, was expected to brief the Council about the political situation in Syria.

The meeting began at 10:23 a.m. and ended at 10:38 a.m.

For information media. Not an official record.