New York, June 20, 2022
Thank you very much, Mr President. Thank you Council members.
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 bleak picture.
Hostilities continue on front lines and in pockets across the country, killing more civilian men, women and children. Killings continue in Al Hol camp, with 18 murders already this year.
On June 15, a car bomb killed the office manager of a partner humanitarian organization in the town of Al Bab. This is a deplorable attack that must be investigated and held accountable. Humanitarian workers are not targets.
On June 10, Damascus airport – damaged by an airstrike – was closed and remains closed to this day. This means that UNHAS – the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service – has also had to suspend operations across Syria.
This has direct implications for the delivery of essential aid and the movement of essential personnel. Landmines continue to threaten communities. On June 11, 10 civilians were killed and 28 injured when a landmine exploded under a civilian vehicle transporting farmers to work in a village in Daraa.
I take this opportunity to remind all parties to this conflict that international humanitarian law requires them to respect civilians and civilian objects and to take all feasible precautions to avoid and minimize harm to civilians.
It should be remembered that Syria is indeed a deep humanitarian crisis. The number of people in need is the highest in more than 11 years of war. The numbers are increasing every year.
It’s a hunger crisis. Food insecurity has reached record levels. Unprecedented numbers 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 dropped significantly in the Euphrates. This means that families do not have enough 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 ask all parties to ensure that people have access to sufficient and safe water throughout the north of the country. For this to happen, all critical infrastructure, including electrical installations, must remain functional. They are civilian objects.
It is an economic crisis. The United Nations continues to engage with all parties on how to improve the lives of ordinary civilians, including so that their situation is not further aggravated by the impact of sanctions. But as we have said in this room before – and more than once – more than 90% of the Syrian population lives below the poverty line.
And the sad reality is that the situation is only getting worse.
I invite all of us to imagine what it would be like for the Syrian people to have the same conversation here, every month, as their situation continues to deteriorate. I’m sure we’ll know more about that in the next presentation.
In this frankly dismal context, this Council will soon be discussing the renewal of resolution 2585, as the Secretary-General has already mentioned.
It was decided unanimously almost a year ago. I would like to add to the Secretary-General’s remarks on the progress made in this regard over the past 12 months.
Twenty-six percent of our humanitarian assistance request to Syria this year is for early recovery and resilience. So far this year, 2.9 million people have benefited from these efforts. We know that early recovery is part of this resolution and the renewed focus on it and increased donations to it are a strong feature of the last 12 months of assistance in Syria.
And the trend must continue.
In May, my deputy, Assistant Secretary-General Msuya, visited early recovery projects in Syria. One run by the World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is rehabilitating canals and enabling farmers, especially women’s groups, to cultivate their land. It’s simple like that. A single mother told Joyce, “I can finally provide for my children. I have a new chance to live. “All Syrians deserve this 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 livelihoods 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 nearly 15,000 health workers to make health systems more resilient to shocks. They rehabilitated 106 health facilities serving up to 400,000 people.
Education partners have restored more than 1,500 classrooms, enabling nearly 80,000 children in the northern governorates of Aleppo and Idlib to return to school.
Since December 2021, humanitarian demining teams have cleared more than 500,000 square meters of land to allow agriculture in Darayya, in the Damascus countryside.
And you will find many more examples of these achievements in the Secretary-General’s report.
Let’s move on to transversal assistance. This time last year, there were no cross-border convoys to northwest Syria. None.
Since the adoption of resolution 2585, we have carried out five convoys, each comprising 14 trucks, from government-controlled areas to Idlib in the northwest. The last dates back only a few days, from June 12 to 13.
This has opened up cross-access to northwestern Syria for the first time in the last 12 months since 2017. This is no small feat. The deliveries each time provided food to more than 43,000 people, as well as nutritional, hygiene, medical and educational supplies.
And to facilitate regular convoys, the UN has developed its Inter-Agency Operational Plan, which we have submitted here and updated through the end of 2022. We have also agreed 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 parties involved and security guarantees, especially for safe passage. And of course, we need funding.
Resolution 2585 highlighted the concerns of Council members regarding the transparency of operations. The Secretary-General referred to this in his remarks today. This was one of the focuses of the Secretary-General’s report issued pursuant to the December 2021 resolution.
Syria remains one of the most complex humanitarian operations in the world.
And the report outlines the robust systems in place to help us monitor, mitigate risk and provide principled assistance to millions of people in need. Not just in the northwest. Not just in the east. But in the northeast and across the country.
This brings me to the imperative to retain our ability to provide cross-border assistance from Turkey for another 12 months. There are 4.4 million people living in northwestern Syria, more than 90% of whom are in need of humanitarian assistance. Many have needed this help for many years. This represents 20% more people in need than last year.
In 2021, the UN sent some 800 cross-border aid trucks to northwestern Syria, reaching just under 2.5 million people each month. We brought food to 1.8 million people and so on. Our figures for 2022 show similar levels of aid.
Last year, the UN spent more than $420 million in northwestern Syria, including $151 million allocated through the Syrian Cross-Border Humanitarian Fund. I thank all the governments that have contributed so generously.
Simply put, without UN cross-border access, hunger will increase, medical cases will go untreated, millions of people risk losing housing assistance and access to water will decrease. COVID-19 – it’s still here – vaccine distribution plans will be disrupted. Our ability to provide the minimum protection to women and girls at risk of gender-based violence – to put it mildly – will become severely limited.
The UN monitoring mechanism will also come to a halt, which will diminish transparency and accountability.
Let’s be honest, in an ideal world, much more progress would have been made in cross-delivery and we would be further along in implementing more early recovery programs. Of course, it’s true. But we have to face reality. There has been progress. This is progress in the right direction. And we need to stay on course to see more. As we do so, the needs of the Syrian people – the Syrian people who should be our first concern – are growing, and more of them need our help and protection.
Right now, there is simply no other way to meet the scale and scope of the needs than renewal of this resolution, increased funding and ceasefire efforts. -national fire to which the Secretary-General referred in his remarks.
I hope we can stay on this course together.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
- United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA’s activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.