The United Nations and its partners continued to deliver life-saving assistance to millions of people in Syria, but much more must be done by the parties to the conflict to ensure rapid, unhindered access to the hardest-to-reach areas, a senior United Nations relief official told the Security Council today.
“So long as the parties to conflict continue to disregard their international legal obligations, I regret that we will continue to report on more and more senseless tragedies, despite the demands of Security Council resolutions 2139 (2013) and 2165 (2014),” said Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Kyung-wha Kang, briefing the 15-member body on behalf of Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.
“Unrelenting” violence in Syria had forced millions of Syrians to live in appalling conditions, she said, where their basic rights were being violated and their futures looked increasingly desolate. High numbers of civilians had been killed in September by indiscriminate attacks in densely populated areas. Children continued to suffer the brunt of the violence.
In the past month alone, she said, nearly 200,000 people had fled the brutal advance of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS) and sought refuge in Turkey; nearly 14,000 of them, in turn, had sought refuge in Iraq. Armed opposition groups had intensified their attacks and the Government’s aerial bombardments continued. On 29 October, a small settlement for internally displaced persons in Idlib had been reportedly struck by barrel bombs.
Despite the enormous challenges, she said, in the last month, more than 3.9 million people received food aid, while medicines and supplies for 1.6 million treatments had been dispatched. Since the adoption of resolution 2165 (2014), supplies for more than half a million medical treatments had been delivered, as had food for 160,000 people and non-food items for 240,000 people. Cross-border operations remained crucial. The international aid community’s joint operational plans for October and November had allowed the United Nations to better coordinate with non-governmental organizations working within Syria and across the borders.
Yet, the Organization was still unable to deliver sufficient aid to the hardest to reach areas, she said, noting that the World Food Programme (WFP) was once again unable to reach the nearly 600,000 people targeted in ISIL-controlled Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa governorates, which were last reached in May and July respectively. Violence in the north had also cut in half its cross-line deliveries in Aleppo and Idlib.
The parties to the conflict continued to obstruct delivery, she said, citing the Government security forces’ removal of all injectable medicines, antibiotics and surgical supplies from an inter-agency convoy bound for Tir Mala and Ghanto, despite that it had received approval for medical supply delivery.
Some 241,000 people remain besieged, mostly by Government forces, she said. In the past month, the United Nations had been allowed only limited access to Yarmouk — home to the largest Palestinian refugee community in Syria — despite frequent requests. United Nations requests to reach besieged areas in rural Damascus, such as Duma, Zamalka and Erbin, had gone unanswered by the Government. Likewise, aid was ready to be delivered to the besieged communities of Nubul and Zahra, but opposition groups had yet to allow access.
She said a lack of funding had also severely compromised operations, recalling that at this point last year, the $1.4 billion appeal for activities inside Syria was 75 per cent funded. Today, only 39 per cent of the $2.3 billion required had been received, which would force a drop in food aid for more than 4 million Syrians.
The situation in Syria, judged by the suffering of its people, was getting worse, she warned. The parties must comply with their international legal obligations to protect people and allow humanitarian workers the access required to help those in need. While those workers would continue to deliver aid, ultimately, the answer to the crisis in Syria — and the region — would only come through a political solution that addressed its root causes.
The meeting began at 10:00 a.m. and ended at 10:15 a.m.