Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mr. Mark Lowcock Opening Remarks at the ‘Supporting the future of Syria and the region’, Brussels II
Brussels, 24 April 2018
Seven years of intense fighting, relentless bombing and shelling, horrific attacks on medical facilities, schools and markets, as well as the use of siege and starvation tactics have resulted in incredible suffering for civilians across Syria. An estimated 6.5 million people are facing severe food insecurity. Fewer than half of Syria’s health facilities are operational and more than one-third of households rely on unsafe water sources. One in three schools has been damaged or destroyed, depriving children of their basic right to education. Millions of Syrian children have never known peace. They suffer from psychosocial distress as a result of experiencing the horrors of war.
For seven years, the detailed descriptions of each atrocious act have made the front pages of our newspapers, filled our TV screens, overflowed our inboxes and social media feeds.
And yet, despite our collective moral outrage, we remain unable to end the human misery. Syria is the largest, most complex, and most severe protection crisis of our time.
While the situation in many parts of the country is now calmer, with life returning a step towards normal for some people, the intensity of the humanitarian crisis has escalated again in 2018. More than 700,000 people have been displaced, many more than once, since the beginning of the year. In the first three months of 2018, there have been 72 confirmed attacks on health services and facilities.
As the number of people in urgent need of assistance continues to grow, the United Nations has exhausted its resources to respond.
The appeal that we are making here over the next two days has taken on even higher urgency to address newly arisen humanitarian needs in areas around the country.
The first is in eastern Ghouta, which Christos [Stylianides] just talked about. Eastern Ghouta is now under the control of the Government of Syria, but years of deprivation, under siege, mean that the estimated 150,000 people who remain in this area continue to require urgent assistance. Access across conflict lines has long been a challenge; we must make all efforts to ensure that areas that have recently changed hands do not face similar restrictions.
The UN and its partners are responding to the mounting humanitarian needs of the 155,000 people displaced from eastern Ghouta. Forty-five thousand people remain crammed in sites for displaced in Rural Damascus created to hold just 25,000. The UN and its partners are responding, but there are simply too many people in too small an area.
Over 60,000 people left on buses for Idleb and Aleppo governorates, joining the nearly 400,000 people who have been displaced from southern Idleb since 15 December. Idleb has seen a 25 percent increase in its already large displaced population. Some 1.2 million of the 2 million people in the governorate are now displaced, many of them having been forced from one place to another multiple times. The response by host communities and the humanitarian organisations working cross-border to provide assistance and services is greatly overstretched.
Those remaining in Afrin, as well as the 137,000 people who were displaced to government-controlled Tel Refaat and the surrounding areas, are also in dire need. While Turkish-facilitated UN cross-border shipments have provided relief to people in need in Afrin district, humanitarian agencies are still struggling to gain sustained access. Freedom of movement for internally displaced persons in areas under the control of the Government of Syria also remains severely limited.
Within the resources we can plausibly expect to mobilise this year, we cannot meet even all the urgent needs. Our focus is now to ensure that the 5.6 million people who we assess as being in acute need inside Syria are made the priority.
The United Nations and humanitarian partners are looking for US$3.51 billion to provide life-saving assistance and protection for 13.1 million people inside Syria this year.
Thank you to the generous donors who have already provided $799 million toward the Humanitarian Response Plan for 2018. I note, however, that it is only 23 percent funded.
On average the UN and partners reach over 7 million people every month, with food, WASH, health and education. If we have the resources, we can meet people’s needs. If we do not have them, we cannot.
For the neighbouring countries hosting refugees, the Regional Refugee & Resilience Plan (3RP) requires $5.6 billion. And through earlier conferences, we have already mobilized $1.2 billion to support ongoing national efforts to respond to the 5.6 million refugees from Syria in neighbouring countries, and to relieve the burden on communities hosting them. I urge to think carefully what we can do to support more the refugee-hosting countries.
We all know that only a political solution to the conflict will provide a sustainable end to the humanitarian crisis in Syria. The fighting must stop. People in need and their protection must come first.