Briefing to the Security Council on the Humanitarian Situation in Syria by the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mr. Mark Lowcock
New York, 27 July 2018
Thank you, Mr. President,
I am pleased to be here alongside the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict today. The appalling suffering this war has wrought on Syria’s children is truly unimaginable. Yet, it is Syria’s children who are the future of the country.
Ensuring that their rights are respected, protected and fulfilled must be at the centre of all of our efforts.
The Secretary-General’s Envoy briefed you comprehensively on Wednesday on the hostilities in the south-west of Syria. I agree with everything he said and I don’t think I need to repeat it.
What I would like to say is that the UN and its partners have mobilized a response which is reaching tens of thousands of people across much of the south-west. This has built on sustained efforts to preposition supplies through cross-border deliveries and now draws on programming from inside Syria, implemented through the Syrian Arab Red Crescent in agreement with the Government.
This has included the delivery of food prepositioning of aid, alongside efforts to scale up our ongoing response to immediate needs, is increasingly critical.
I have briefed you many times on the appalling suffering of the people of Foah and Kefraya, who have been besieged by armed groups for years. On 16 July, an agreement was reportedly reached to evacuate the towns with some 120 buses transporting people to the Mahalej shelter in Aleppo.
The UN was not party to the agreement nor have we had access to the evacuees. However, efforts continue to provide the necessary emergency support, in coordination with Syrian Arab Red Crescent and other local organizations.
The UN and its partners continue to respond to the needs of people displaced from Afrin district in Tall Refaat sub-district, Nabul and Zahraa towns, and in surrounding communities. Protection remains a key concern across the area, including in relation to freedom of movement for those wishing to return to their homes and, linked to this, ensuring housing, land and property rights are fully respected.
We also note worrying reports of insecurity in Afrin town itself, including two vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices being detonated late last month, killing 15 civilians and wounding 23.
Humanitarian needs remain high in eastern Ghouta, though there are also reports of markets beginning to function again and some other normalizing activities. Close to 10,000 people from eastern Ghouta – mostly men between the ages of 15 and 65 – are reported to remain in displacement sites across Rural Damascus.
In the north-east, returns to Raqqa city have continued, despite risks due to high levels of explosive hazard contamination. There are also very serious concerns about civilians trapped in ISIL-held areas in the eastern part of Deir-ez-Zor governorate, about reports of civilian casualties in airstrikes in Al Sousa and Baghour Fukhani earlier this month, and about hundreds of cases of diarrheal disease, including at least 12 deaths, due to consumption of contaminated water.
Humanitarian demining in Raqqa city and Deir-ez-Zor remains a key priority, alongside ongoing efforts to scale up broader humanitarian assistance.
The humanitarian situation at Rukban, on the Jordan-Syria border, remains dire, with reports of diarrhea and dehydration in the camp. Discussions on the deployment of an aid convoy to the area continue.
Humanitarian organizations continue to reach millions of people across Syria More than 3 million people received food last month alone. But needs in many areas have continued to grow, in particular in the south-west and north-west, as well as in Raqqa.
Our efforts to keep pace with the rapidly evolving situation depend on support from many Member States. This includes financial contributions to the projects in the Humanitarian Response Plan, aid provided by neighboring governments, and in-kind donations such as that provided by France – and facilitated by the Russian Federation – earlier this week, and distributed in Duma yesterday.
Unfortunately, the UN appeal for Syria this year remains substantially underfunded. Sustaining and increasing the confidence of donors depends on the ability of the UN and the humanitarian organizations we work with to independently assess needs, prioritize responses and provide awareness that help is reaching those in the greatest need. This in turn requires safe, unimpeded and sustained access, in line with the obligations of the parties to the conflict under international humanitarian law. The UN remains fully committed to working with the Syrian authorities and other stakeholders in this regard, to demonstrate the principled nature of our collective effort and ensure that we reach as many of the most vulnerable people as possible across the country.
Thank you, Mr. President.