Syria

Statement attributable to Ms. Najat Rochdi, Senior Humanitarian Adviser to the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, on the Situation Across Syria, 11 October 2019

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At Thursday’s Humanitarian Task Force meeting in Geneva, Senior Humanitarian Adviser Najat Rochdi emphasized the need for protection of civilians in Syria’s northeast and for Member States to ensure that humanitarian needs across Syria are met.

Humanitarian needs in Syria remain significant and widespread with more than 11 million people requiring some form of humanitarian assistance, including 4.7 million living in areas of high severity of need.

The protection of civilians, humanitarian workers and civilian infrastructure in Syria’s northeast is a growing concern. Ongoing military operations in northeast Syria are likely to exacerbate an already challenging humanitarian situation. Hundreds of thousands of people are at risk of further displacement, and the delivery of assistance is currently being disrupted with some agencies temporarily suspending operations. Ms. Rochdi reiterated that military operations must fully respect the UN Charter and international humanitarian law; civilians must be protected; sustained, unimpeded and safe humanitarian access to civilians in need must also be guaranteed; and any return of Syrian refugees to this area from Turkey must be voluntary, safe and dignified.

In Syria’s northwest, the humanitarian needs in the Idlib area remain extensive. Four million people are up against a harsh winter, including some 600,000 people who live in tents, makeshift camps or sites for internally displaced persons. For thousands, including women and children, the only shelters they could find are trees in rural areas. While the continued de-escalation in violence is welcome and necessary, Ms. Rochdi voiced her concern to HTF members about reports of recent aerial bombardments and the overall precarious security situation. A shortage of funding is already straining a critical situation. In addition to existing needs, the humanitarian community estimates that USD 242.8 million would be required in order for the UN and its humanitarian partners to meet humanitarian needs. The UN Emergency Response Plan has been revised to respond to 1.1 million people in northwest Syria who may be affected by further escalation in violence.

In Rukban, the UN and the Syrian Arab Crescent (SARC) conducted a humanitarian operation from 26 to 29 September to assist families who had expressed their wishes and intent to depart from the camp, and to provide aid to those who choose to stay. Some 329 people voluntarily departed from Rukban, with many Rukban residents requiring further information about the return process. Further departures are planned in the coming weeks. UN-SARC also provided one month of humanitarian supplies to the people in Rukban, but more supplies will soon be needed. The UN is also awaiting access to the temporary shelters in Homs, for which further co-chairs support was sought. A durable solution needs to be urgently found for those who do not wish to relocate to Syrian Government-controlled areas.

The security situation in Al Hol remains unsustainable with some 68,600 people, 94 percent of whom are women and children, remaining. The UN continues to request that Member States seek solutions for their nationals, including through repatriation, in line with international human rights standards and acceptable international norms and laws, prioritising the best interest of the children. Ms. Rochdi is also concerned about recent reports about violence erupting in the camp. It is an unsustainable situation and Ms. Rochdi shall continue to press and urge all relevant parties to address it in line with international humanitarian law.

Geneva, 11 October 2019