At Thursday’s Syria Humanitarian Task Force meeting in Geneva, Senior Humanitarian Adviser Najat Rochdi urged Member States to support the United Nations’ immediate humanitarian priorities in Syria.
First, in the de-escalation area in northwestern Syria, an unacceptable level of violence continues to affect civilians, humanitarian workers and civilian infrastructure. Action must be taken to ensure protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure in the midst of military conflict. More than 300 civilians have been killed, including many women and children. Just last week, reports reached us of an ambulance struck through aerial bombardment. Three medical workers, who were providing crucial rescue assistance, and a female patient they were bringing for hospital care were killed. Some 330,000 people have been displaced since the fighting escalated. People are constantly on the move searching for safety. We have received reports of some people having to leave their homes an average of five times since the start of the conflict, some have been displaced more than 10 times.
Everything needs to be done to protect civilians. Universal principles and values must prevail when so many innocent lives are at stake. All parties to the conflict have an international legal obligation to respect international humanitarian law. This is also not optional; adherence to IHL cannot be derogated. Dealing with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a designated terrorist group, presents significant challenges, but counterterrorism operations must fully comply with IHL.
Second in Rukban, some 27,000 people, lacking the most basic of services, remain in dire need of humanitarian and protection assistance. The UN request for predictable and durable humanitarian access to the settlement and to help those who would like to leave grows ever more urgent. Support has been provided for the more than 14,800 persons who have left the settlement. We continue to call for humanitarian access to Rukban to be able to deliver life-saving aid and to assist those who would like to leave the settlement.
Third, some 73,000 people remain in Al Hol camp, the vast majority are women and children, including some newborns. News of children of foreign nationality being repatriated is welcome. But the situation for the thousands of children who remain at Al Hol, in northeastern Syria remains shameful. We also ask that people in the camp receive information about the whereabouts and conditions of their family members and remind parties to the conflict that children should receive the special care and protection they are entitled to under IHL. Utmost consideration must be given to these children, who have endured egregious violations of their rights. Member States must work to resolve the situation in compliance with IHL.
Fourth, Syria continues to be one of the most complex humanitarian crises in the world. Despite a difficult operating environment, on average 6 million people continue to be reached with some form of humanitarian assistance each month, with response prioritised according to severity of needs. The Syria Humanitarian Response Plan requires US$3.3 billion to assist more than 11 million Syrians in 2019. Today, the operation is only 23 per cent funded. More resources are required to respond to urgent needs in northwestern Syria and other areas across the country.
As Senior Humanitarian Adviser to the UN Special Envoy for Syria, I continue to exert all possible efforts to ensure that the UN and its partners on the ground can have safe, regular and sustained access to all those in need. I shall continue to bring to the attention of the parties to the conflict, members of the ISSG and the public, the continuing violations of IHL. I continue to call for an immediate halt to attacks on civilian infrastructure as well as the absolute commitment of the parties to the deconfliction mechanism, including to investigate any incidents reported by the UN.