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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's press encounter at Za'atari camp

Mafraq, Jordan, 7 December 2012

SG: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Salaam aleikum.

I have just seen this refugee camp and I am here to express the strong solidarity of the United Nations and the international community. And I am also here to express my deepest admiration for all the United Nations agencies, and the Red Cross, Red Crescent, and other civil society organizations, the Jordanian Government and all the local population, mayors and police who have been working, day and night, tirelessly, to help those people who have fled their motherland, Syria, to Jordan.

The people who are working here with the Jordanian Government, they are showing great compassion, generosity and hospitality to their brothers and sisters from Syria who have had to flee their country.

I know this poses a great burden to the Government and other humanitarian organizations, but I am very much grateful for their noble, noble work.

Today, I have heard heartbreaking stories from the refugees whom I have met. Most of [them have lost] their beloved family members. Some are injured. Some are very vulnerable and fragile.

Some are still suffering from trauma of torture and abuse of their human rights and dignity. Many saw their homes destroyed before their eyes.

I am shocked and saddened and even angry at this human tragedy.

After almost 21 months, more than 40,000 people have been killed. We do not know how many people have been injured.

Let us not forget where this started: the legitimate request of people for greater freedom and human dignity. The response of the Government has been brutal and disproportionate. The country has been brought to ruin.

Some half a million Syrian refugees have fled to their neighbouring countries, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Lebanon and nearly [three] million have been internally displaced.

In the face of such hardship, I have been humbled to see the refugees’ resilience, perseverance, their hope and resolve.

The United Nations is working hard to alleviate the suffering of this humanitarian crisis the civilians are suffering inside and outside the country.

We have scaled up assistance.  As winter sets in, the United Nations humanitarian agencies and our humanitarian partners will continue to boost our efforts. 

That includes making sure that children go to school and that survivors of violence, particularly women and girls, have the support they need. I just met many young school children. From their faces I could see still a sense hope. And I could see the brighter future of Syria. We have to help them. We have to educate them.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have to [make] an appeal to the international community. The humanitarian assistance simply has not been keeping up to the increasing need of these refugees.

The UN appeal for humanitarian assistance has only been half-funded. We have witnesses a tripling of the number of refugees these days. As this number of refugees is increasing, I am afraid that any serious escalation of violence inside Syria would lead to a dramatic increase of the refugees, and the neighbouring countries like Jordan has been bearing the brunt of humanitarian assistance.

I therefore call upon and appeal most urgently to the international community, and particularly to the countries in this region, to provide on an urgent basis humanitarian assistance. We need your caring hands to those helpless people.

We cannot close our eyes while people are suffering and dying. We have to help them. 

That is why I am here.  They are your mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. And they are your children.

I count on the Government of Jordan to continue to keep its borders open to Syrians fleeing the violence.

It is essential that those refugees who have lost everything should be treated with human dignity and given the support they need. I thank again His Majesty King Abdullah and all the Jordanian people, Government and local population for their generous support.

Ladies and gentlemen, I as Secretary-General of the United Nations and Lakhdar Brahimi, Joint Special Representative, are working to end the violence in Syria and advance a credible political transition that will realize the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people. 

Guns will not lead Syria to that future. The military path is a dead end.  It only fills camps with more tears of the refugees.  It will fill streets with more blood. 

I appeal to all sides once again, and particularly the Syrian Government: stop the violence, in the name of humanity.

I once again urge the international community – particularly the Security Council of the United Nations – to do its part for peace and reconciliation for the people of Syria and the region.

Thank you. Shukran jazeelan.

Q: My question is there a lot of sympathy towards Syrians and what’s happening in Syria. However, we haven’t really seen an equal amount of help and support from the international community. I’d just like to know what you think would be the reason for that. Why do we hear so much sympathy but we still see a refugee camp where they haven’t been able to provide prefabricated homes for the refugees before the winter?

SG:  I have been visiting many places of humanitarian crisis during the last many years. But this is again another human crisis, a humanitarian crisis and human tragedy. And I am humbled. The sheer number of refugees fleeing from the violence every day increases day by day, a minimum of 500 to 1,000 overnight. That really humbles all the humanitarian agencies and our limited capacity. That is why I am urging and appealing to the international community to do more. This is a crisis. And when it comes to crisis, you have to act immediately and urgently before these people will die from a lack of support. There are so many children, so many women, even pregnant women. I met some woman who was crying. But she was lucky enough to have found her son, who was separated in the middle of this fleeing. Therefore, just think that this is a tragedy of your family members. If you think that this is happening to your own family members, then you know what to do. I am appealing again.

Q: I am a humanitarian attorney from southern California for the non-profit organization [inaudible]. I’m an American Egyptian. I understand the idea of mutual obligation. These people are our brothers and our sisters. We started talking with communities across America about helping the children. We see the psychological deterioration of these children we want to help. So we started with the Jordanian Government launching and implementing a plan to help children’s defense. My question is: What would you say to organizations across the world that want to focus on alleviating the psychological deterioration and advancing and promoting children’s events here at this camp?

SG: When this kind of a crisis happens, it’s mostly children and women and girls who are most affected, and we have to help them to overcome psychological trauma. When this trauma gets into the minds of children, this will last long in their lifetime. So the United Nations, UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund], UNHCR [United Nations Refugee Agency], WFP [World Food Programme] and all other humanitarian agencies are working very hard while providing humanitarian assistance, what they need living, at the same time, we are paying great attention and focus on how to help those children so that they can overcome this tragedy without having trauma. Thank you very much.

Then, I’d like to ask the media: You have very important work. And I thank you for your concerns and your covering this crisis time. Through you, the people around the world can learn and can see what’s happening here and all other places. So please remember that you have a very important role to help this crisis. And I count on your support. Thank you.


Off-the-Cuff on 7 December 2012