Damascus and Amman, 25 March 2016
Today, the United Nations commemorates the International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members. Across the world, United Nations, International Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement staff, and aid workers face widespread violence and intimidation, arbitrary detention and even death in areas of conflict and disaster while working to assist others.
“In Syria, United Nations, International Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement, international and Syrian non-governmental organizations’ workers routinely put their lives at great risk in pursuit of their humanitarian mission,” said Yacoub El Hillo, the Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria.
A total of 35 United Nations staff members continue to be detained or missing, the majority of whom are UNRWA staff. Since the start of the crisis in Syria in March 2011, 17 UN staff members, 53 Syrian Arab Red Crescent staff members and volunteers, and 8 Palestinian Red Crescent Society staff members and volunteers have lost their lives. In addition, hundreds of medical workers have died in the course of duty.
Humanitarian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have also been gravely affected: since 1 January 2015 alone, credible reports indicate that at least 55 NGO staff members have been killed in Syria.
“This is a shocking and bleak reality. These people are not numbers. They have lives, stories, families and friends,” said Kevin Kennedy, the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis. “We salute them today and pay tribute to those colleagues who have lost their live while working to help others.”
Attacks against humanitarian workers have intensified in recent years. The International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members is a day to mobilize joint action, demand accountability and strengthen international resolution to protect them.
“All parties to the conflict in Syria must safeguard the safety and security of humanitarian workers; respect their privileges and immunities; and protect them at times of conflict,” Mr. Kennedy added. “We call for the unconditional and immediate release of those colleagues who continue to remain in custody, and for parties to the conflict to reveal the fate of those still missing.”
For further information, please contact:
David Swanson, firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: +962 (0) 791 417 882
Hayat Abu-Saleh email@example.com Tel: +962 (0) 796 769 324
Ghalia Seifo, firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: +963 (0) 953 300 078
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.