Thank you very much for inviting me to be part of this very important session and this very important day.
And I probably will say things that you have heard before, but I think it is important that I say these things and that we get reminded constantly.
The first, of course, is that 11 years of conflict have passed, and the humanitarian situation gets worse every year. Needs have reached unprecedented levels, driven, of course, by the economic crisis, displacement, climatic shocks, as well as a decade of conflict. We have got chronic electricity, fuel and water shortages undermining the functionality of essential services, livelihoods and delivery of assistance.
The most vulnerable, of course, are female-headed households, older persons without family support, persons with disabilities, and children. Palestine refugees are also among the communities most affected by the crisis.
The combination of a long-term protracted humanitarian crisis with rapidly worsening economic circumstances that makes Syria so much the need for our focus, alongside gender-based violence, is making life particularly and especially very hard for women and girls, despite their extraordinary resilience. And I think we all have been to Syria and seen that first-hand.
As we keep reminding ourselves, as we have heard in the previous sessions, the only way to stop the suffering in Syria is a comprehensive political resolution to the conflict. This is at the highest importance for all humanitarian workers and humanitarian agencies.
While we try to address the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people, we need a path to allow the people of Syria to breathe again and be away from the conflict.
14.6 million people need humanitarian assistance to survive this year, and the majority of the population is food insecure.
And another 12 million people on top — Syrian refugees and those hosting them — require support across the region.
So, no surprise that $10.5 billion, an astonishing and eye-watering amount of money, is needed to fully support Syrians in need. $4.4 billion of that is for the response inside Syria, and another $6.1 billion for the refugees and host communities in the region.
This is the largest appeal ever for the Syria crisis and yet it comes, as I say, with worsening conditions for those we serve. And God knows, I fervently hope, as we all do, that this will be the last appeal of this scale.
In the humanitarian sector, we are doing our small part to try to ensure this. We are trying to be smarter, working for a more efficient response that builds people’s coping capacity. A lifesaving humanitarian response alone in Syria, and as in so many countries, will not address the root drivers of growing and shifting humanitarian needs. It is from us, from the humanitarians, that we need to advocate for basic services and resilience.
To reach people in need with assistance at scale and in a more sustainable manner, part of our focus this year will be on revitalizing access to those basic services. Water, of course, I guess in many ways being the primary focus.
Our Humanitarian Response Plan illustrates the positive work across all sectors. Over 25 per cent of the overall request for humanitarian aid this year in Syria goes to early recovery and resilience programming. And I would like to thank all those here who have supported this, and all those agencies who have addressed it through massively increased and improved programming.
So, we scale up early recovery programming alongside life-saving work.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
If we are going to continue to help Syria, I suggest we need two things. We need access and we need funding. Syria is no different from elsewhere, but these are the basic priorities, which we know to be the case in Syria.
As it has been said, we need further inter-agency cross-line convoys to deploy in May and June. We need this to happen. We need this to happen for their own sake, for the people they serve.
We need it to happen to sustain our efforts to renew that cross-border operation.
So, we do want to strengthen our access into the west, through cross-line convoys, but of course, and I need to say this, this cannot replicate the size and scope of cross-border operation. We have to have that resolution renewed.
The UN dispatched 800 trucks of aid to north-west Syria per month last year, reaching 2.5 million people each month. We have to have that resolution renewed. Even under the current international diplomatic challenges.
Despite all the challenges that Syria currently processes, humanitarian operations reached an average of 7.3 million people every month last year. But that is actually only half of the people in need. That is a token of the failure of our efforts, despite the best of efforts and considerable funding.
The Humanitarian Response Plan was funded at 47 per cent last year. So, of course, we hope to increase on that this year. Humanitarian pooled funds, I would say this, including the CERF, are strategically positioned to make the most effective and efficient use of available funds. There is my advertising.
And finally, in this room, and Michael [Michael Koehler, acting Director General, DG ECHO], you and your colleagues’ efforts in this week remind us with your diligence that we will not allow Syria to become a forgotten emergency. And huge credit to you, the European Union and the Member States to remind us.
Syrian women, men and children should not be allowed to fall off our attention span and should be given a future that, next year, is better than the one they faced this year.
Thank you very much indeed.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.