New York, 20 June 2022
Thank you very much, Mr. President. Thank you to the Members of the Council.
You have just heard the Secretary-General’s remarks on the humanitarian situation in Syria. I am grateful to him for his presence here. They paint a very grim picture.
Hostilities continue on the frontlines and in pockets across the country, killing more civilian men, women and children. Murders continue in Al Hol camp, with 18 murders already this year.
On 15 June, a car bomb killed the Head of Office of a humanitarian partner organization in Al Bab city. This was a deplorable attack and should be investigated, and the perpetrators held accountable. Aid workers are not targets.
On 10 June, the Damascus airport - damaged by an airstrike – was shut down and remains closed as of today. This means UNHAS – the UN Humanitarian Air Service – also had to suspend its operations across Syria.
This has direct implications on the delivery of essential aid and movement of essential staff. Landmines continue to threaten communities. On 11 June, 10 civilians were killed and 28 wounded when a landmine detonated under a civilian vehicle carrying farmers to work in a village in Dara’a.
I take this opportunity to remind all the parties to this conflict that international humanitarian law requires them to respect civilians and civilian objects and take all feasible precautions to avoid and minimize civilian harm.
It bears reminding that Syria is indeed a deep humanitarian crisis. The number of people in need is the highest now that it’s ever been during more than 11 years of war. The numbers increase each year.
It’s a hunger crisis. Food insecurity has reached record levels. An unprecedented number of women and children in Syria are now battling high rates of malnutrition.
It’s a water crisis. With the summer heat, water levels have significantly stepped down in the Euphrates River. This means families do not have sufficient clean water to drink. Children, of course, get sick from water borne diseases. Farmers cannot irrigate their fields. Electricity production drops. And this has a direct impact on basic services.
I want to call on all parties to ensure that people have access to sufficient and safe water across the north of the country. For this to happen all critical infrastructure, including electricity facilities, need to remain functional. They are civilian objects.
It’s an economic crisis. The UN continues to engage with all parties on how to improve the lives of ordinary civilians, including so that their situation is not further worsened by the impact of sanctions. But as we have said in this chamber before – and more than once - more than 90 per cent of the people of Syria are below the poverty line.
And the sad reality is that the situation is only getting worse.
I would invite us all to imagine how it might seem to the people of Syria that we have the same conversation here, every month, while their situation continues to worsen. I am sure we will hear more on that from the next briefer.
Against this frankly dismal backdrop, this Council will soon discuss the renewal of resolution 2585, as the Secretary-General has already mentioned.
This was unanimously agreed nearly a year ago. I would like to add to the Secretary-General’s remarks on the progress made on that over the past 12 months.
Twenty-six per cent of our request for humanitarian aid to Syria this year is aimed at early recovery and resilience. So far this year, 2.9 million people have benefitted from these efforts. We know that early recovery is part of that resolution and the renewed focus on it and the increased donations towards it are a strong feature in the last 12 months of assistance in Syria.
And the trend needs to continue.
In May, my deputy, Assistant Secretary-General Msuya, visited early recovery projects in Syria. One of those run by the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization, rehabilitates canals and has enabled farmers, particularly women’s groups, to farm their land. It is straightforward as that. One single mother told Joyce “I can finally provide for my children. I have a new chance at life. ”All Syrians deserve that chance. I believe passionately in the right of everyone, no matter where they live, under whose administration they live, to have a right to a future: to be educated, to have their livelihood protected, to be able to access essential health and social services.
We and our partners are scaling up early recovery in response to immediate and protracted needs.
From January to April, health sector partners trained close to 15,000 healthcare workers to make health systems more shock-proof. They rehabilitated 106 health care facilities that service up to 400,000 people.
Education partners restored over 1,500 classrooms, allowing nearly 80,000 children in northern Aleppo and Idleb governorates to go back to schools.
Since December 2021, humanitarian mine clearance teams have cleared over 500,000 square meters of land to enable farming in Darayya, Rural Damascus.
And you will find many more examples of these achievements in the Secretary-General’s report.
Turning to cross-line assistance. At this time last year, there were no crossline convoys into north-west Syria. None.
Since the adoption of resolution 2585, we have carried out five convoys, each including 14 trucks, from Government-controlled areas into Idleb into the northwest. The latest was just a few days ago, from 12 to 13 June.
This has opened cross- line access to north-west Syria for the first time in the last 12 month since 2017. It is no small thing. The deliveries have provided food for over 43,000 people each time, along with nutrition, hygiene, medical and education supplies.
And to facilitate regular convoys, the UN developed its inter-agency operational plan, which we submitted here and updated it to run through the end of 2022. We also agreed on a new distribution modality with the parties.
We want to do more; we need to do more, and we expect to do more. And we are working to expand access. But we need an enabling environment.
We need timely approvals from all concerned and security guarantees, especially for safe passage. And of course, we need funding.
Resolution 2585 underscored Council Members’ concerns over transparency of operations. The Secretary-General has referred to that in his remarks today. This was a focus of the Secretary-General’s report issued in line with the resolution in December 2021.
Syria remains one of the most complex humanitarian operations globally.
And the report described the robust systems in place to assist us to monitor, mitigate risks and provide principled assistance to millions of people in need across. Not just in the northwest. Not just in east. But northeast and across the country.
This brings me to the imperative of retaining our ability to deliver assistance across the border from Türkiye for an additional 12 months. There are 4.4 million people living in north-west Syria, over 90 per cent of whom need humanitarian assistance. Many have needed this assistance for many years. This is 20 per cent more people in need than last year.
In 2021, the UN sent some 800 trucks of cross-border aid to north-west Syria, reaching little under 2.5 million people every month. We brought in food for 1.8 million people and so on and so forth. Our figures for 2022 show similar levels of aid going in.
Last year, the UN spent over US$420 million inside north-west Syria, including $151 million allocated through the Syria Cross Border Humanitarian Fund. I would thank all Governments who contributed so generously.
Simply put, without UN cross-border access, hunger will increase, medical cases will go untreated, millions will be at risk of losing shelter assistance, and access to water will decrease. COVID-19 – it is still there - vaccine distribution plans will be disrupted. Our ability to provide the minimum protection to women and girls who are at risk of gender-based violence – this is a euphemism - will become severely limited.
The UN monitoring mechanism will also stop, decreasing transparency and accountability.
Let us be honest, in an ideal world, much more progress would have been made on cross-line delivery and we would be further along implementing more early recovery programmes. Of course, that’s true. But we need to face reality. There has been some progress. It has been progress in the right direction. And we need to stay this course to see more of it. At the same time as we are doing this, the needs of the people of Syria – the Syrian people who should be our first attention – are rising, with more of them requiring our assistance and our protection.
At present, there is simply no alternative available to meet the scale and scope of needs other than the renewal of that resolution, an increase in funding and the efforts towards the national ceasefire that the Secretary-General referred to in his remarks.
I hope we can stay that course together.
Thank you, Mr. President.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.