Stemming a disaster in Syria
The plight of Syrians will get worse unless we get access to people in need and invest in shoring up Syrian livelihoods and resilience
Yacoub El Hillo, UN Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria
Kevin Kennedy, Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis
It has been four years since an uprising began in Syria, a country now torn apart by a war that has delivered one of the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophes of our generation. With every passing year, Syria has delivered unprecedented levels of tragedy.
The warring parties may not have stopped the killing, but the humanitarian community has been in Syria trying to afford assistance to civilians where it can. In the past four years, the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has increased twelve-fold. That figure is now 12.2 million. Nearly half of all Syrians have been forced from their homes - 7.6 million have been internally displaced and 3.9 million have fled to neighbouring countries - making this the largest displacement crisis in the world.
As the Syrian crisis enters its fifth year, we continue to call for a political solution to this crisis. But at the same time, we need to re-focus attention to the plight of the victims, ensure greater access to those in need and proactively explore ways to strengthen the coping mechanisms of the Syrian people to prevent further displacement and suffering.
As humanitarians, we are dedicated to saving lives, alleviating suffering and preserving the dignity of those in need. Against great odds and at great risk to their lives, humanitarians are doing what they can to hold the line in Syria and protect the country’s social fabric. In the past four years, with the generous contributions and support of our donors, we have provided humanitarian assistance to millions of people. This has come at a great cost as 72 humanitarian workers have lost their lives, 42 from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent alone.
We have also made a concerted push to deliver aid into remoter areas as the conflict has mutated from one phase to the next but our efforts to access all those in need continue to be hampered by insecurity and a profound lack of respect for the principles of international humanitarian law.
It is unacceptable that 440,000 people suffer the daily misery of living under siege. Parties to the conflict must urgently do more to facilitate access to civilians in line with their obligations under international law and Security Council Resolutions 2139, 2165 and 2191.
So long as the fighting continues, our focus must remain on ensuring that life-saving humanitarian assistance reaches all Syrians in need, especially those in besieged areas where the needs are highest. At the same time, we also need to build on the resilience of the Syrian people beyond just providing humanitarian assistance in order to give Syrians an opportunity to stay in the country. We urgently need to find ways to meaningfully shore up livelihoods and basic services such as health, education and water wherever possible through longer term interventions.
On the 31st of March, the international community will once again gather in Kuwait for the third pledging conference. We will ask for the support of our donors to enable us to continue finding ways to support the Syrian people and the host communities, whose resources have been stretched to the maximum.
The humanitarian community is committed to continue working in support of Syrians in need as they continue to carry the brunt of this conflict. Humanitarian action will continue to save lives and sustain communities but will not solve the root cause of this conflict. The solution must be a political one and must come fast.