Middle East

Middle East (Syria) - Security Council, 8861st…

15 September 2021


Middle East (Syria) - Security Council, 8861st Meeting

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15 Sep 2021

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Humanitarian needs in Syria greater than ever, relief chief warns Security Council, as speakers welcome breakthrough cross-line delivery of food rations to north-west.

Humanitarian needs in Syria are greater than ever, with an estimated 13.4 million requiring assistance, the highest number since 2017, the United Nations humanitarian chief told the Security Council today, as speakers welcomed a breakthrough cross-line delivery of food rations to the north-western city of Idlib by the World Food Programme (WFP).

Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, reporting on his first visit to Syria, Lebanon and Turkey since taking up his position, said that the lived reality in Syria “is more dire than figures can describe”.

At $4.2 billion, the Syrian Humanitarian Response Plan is the biggest in the world, but it is only 27 per cent funded, he said, and even if funding increases in the coming months, it is not keeping pace with growing needs. Communities are determined to restart their lives, but they need support to do so, and greater investment in resilience activities is an important way to accomplish that.

“Syria is caught in a downward spiral,” he continued, emphasizing that in the near term, at least, the country will remain a place of tragedy, need and suffering. It is therefore incumbent upon the international community to identify, develop and invest in sustainable and effective ways to help.

The Under-Secretary-General added that, during his visit to Aleppo, the WFP completed the first cross-line delivery of humanitarian assistance into north-west Syria since 2017, transporting food rations for 50,000 people in need in Idlib. Much more must be done, however, and the Organization is aiming to build on the WFP effort by planning an inter-agency cross-line operation that would deliver more varied assistance to the north-west.

Amany Qaddour, Regional Director of Syria Relief and Development, also briefed the Council, saying that with many Syrians living in crowded camps and other temporary settlements, security risks — including rape and other acts of violence — have grown exponentially. She spotlighted the recruitment of children as young as 10 into hard labour, as well as an increase in suicides amid an atmosphere that is “palpable with hopelessness and despair”.

Accessing school has been made harder by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the crippled education system unable to maintain classes or facilitate remote learning, she added. The number of coronavirus cases in the north-west is rising exponentially and hospital beds are full, forcing humanitarian actors to make tough decisions. “Access capability is not what should decide which communities are able to reach services,” she stressed.

In the ensuing discussion, Council members welcomed the WFP cross-line delivery, but pressed for an immediate end to hostilities. Several speakers drew attention to the situation in the south-western city of Dara’a al-Balad, scene of heavy fighting before a ceasefire — brokered by the Russian Federation — went into place earlier this month.

Norway’s representative, speaking also on behalf of Ireland, said that increased humanitarian needs in Syria have been magnified by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. She called for a broader humanitarian response, including water, sanitation, health, education and shelter early recovery projects, geared towards providing for the immediate needs of Syrians.

Tunisia’s representative said that no viable solution exists to the conflict in Syria other than a political agreement in line with Council resolution 2254 (2016). Welcoming signs of calm in some areas, he commended the prioritization of dialogue and negotiation, but also called for more concerted international efforts to stop Syria from becoming a safe haven for terrorist groups.

France’s representative agreed that an immediate cessation of hostilities, as well as a humanitarian pause, are the immediate priorities in Syria. He welcomed the WFP’s cross-line convoy but added that the cross-border delivery mechanism should also be renewed. He added that France’s position, and that of its partners, on reconstruction and sanctions will remain intact until conditions change.

The Russian Federation’s representative, disputing claims by Western members of the Council that targeted sanctions are having no impact on ordinary citizens, quoted a report by the United States Agency for International Development, which stated that United States sanctions have contributed to the devaluation of the Syrian pound. He urged the United Nations and Council members to help normalize the humanitarian situation in ways that strengthen Syria’s territorial integrity.

The United States’ representative said that after more than 10 years of conflict, the situation in Syria is getting even worse. Basic service delivery is limited and COVID-19 is rampant. However, cross-line aid is not a replacement for cross-border deliveries, he said, calling for the Council to reauthorize use of the Bab al-Salaam and Al Yarubiyah crossings.

Syria’s representative, taking the floor towards the end of the meeting, said that aid deliveries throughout the country would not have been possible without the Government’s support. Improving the humanitarian situation will require, among other things, full respect for Syria’s sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity; ending the illegal presence of Turkish and United States occupation forces; and the immediate lifting of the immoral blockade imposed by the European Union and the United States, he added.

Also speaking today were representatives of Mexico, United Kingdom, India, China, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Niger, Estonia, Viet Nam, Kenya, Turkey and Iran.

The meeting began at 3:10 p.m. and ended at 5:12 p.m.

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