At Thursday’s Humanitarian Task Force meeting in Geneva, Ms. Najat Rochdi and the UN senior humanitarian leadership in Damascus, Amman and Gaziantep briefed members of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) on the overall humanitarian situation in Syria and conducted advocacy on several specific issues related to protection of civilians and humanitarian access.
The safety and protection of hundreds of thousands of civilians affected by the recent escalation of hostilities in northeast Syria remain a grave concern. While the intensity and scope of violence have declined in recent weeks, localized heavy fighting continues. Since 9 October, the UN has received reports of dozens of civilian deaths as well as a growing number of casualties, often caused by improvised explosive devices. Health facilities are strained as only two out of 16 public hospitals are currently functioning at full capacity in this area.
Of the more than 200,000 people who fled the fighting in recent weeks, close to 100,000 people have not yet been able to return home and are dispersed across improvised camps and collective shelters. These recent displacements are compounding an already dire situation in which some 710,000 people were already displaced and approximately 1.8 million people remain in need of humanitarian assistance. While humanitarian actors have continued to mobilize and help people affected by the hostilities where access is still possible, Ms. Rochdi urged all parties to do more to facilitate guaranteed safe, unimpeded and sustained access for the UN and its humanitarian partners. Efforts are ongoing to ensure the Alok water station, which provides safe water to about 460,000 Syrians, can be restored as soon as possible after having been damaged multiple times.
The situation in Rukban was also reviewed. Since late March, more than 18,300 people have departed from the area. The UN stands ready to further support voluntary and informed departures, and to continue its provision of essential humanitarian assistance. The UN has received positive signals from relevant parties that the necessary security guarantees and authorizations shall be forthcoming. The UN has also requested authorizations to access collective shelters in Homs to support those who have already departed from Rukban.
The increasing violence in northwest Syria, in particular airstrikes on a nearly daily basis that continue to impact civilians and civilian infrastructure, remains alarming. Recently, multiple health facilities have been hit, including a maternity facility and primary care centres. Tens of thousands of people who returned home during the recent de-escalation in fighting are again being forced to leave. Last month, the UN began its winterization campaign that aims to reach 900,000 people. Plummeting temperatures make life in tents and make-shift shelters extremely harsh and precarious, especially for the most vulnerable such as children, the elderly and the sick.
Recently, Ms. Rochdi concluded her first visit to Syria as the Senior Humanitarian Adviser to the UN Special Envoy for Syria. The visit was a welcome opportunity to discuss humanitarian access with representatives of the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic and hear directly from humanitarian actors on the ground. Ms. Rochdi was pleased to learn directly from a broad range of humanitarian actors that overall access across Syria has improved and expressed appreciation for the readiness of the Syrian authorities to further cooperation with the UN humanitarian system for Syria toward furthering the scope of humanitarian access and delivery of assistance throughout Syria.