Syria: “Fighting continues to intensify across the country and its impact on civilians continues to grow”

25 Oct 2013

New York, 25 October 2013: USG Valerie Amos speaks to the media at the Security Council media stakeout following her meeting with Council members on Syria. Credit: OCHA/P. Palmero
UN Humanitarian Chief delivers grim assessment of progress in Syria, three weeks after a Security Council Statement that called for greater humanitarian access.

In the three weeks since the Security Council adopted its Presidential Statement calling on all parties to Syria’s conflict to facilitate the work of humanitarian organizations, the situation has worsened with civilians more vulnerable and aid organizations finding it even more difficult to access communities in need.

This was the grim assessment delivered by UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos in a briefing to the Security Council this morning (25 October).

“Despite the Council’s grave alarm at the significant and rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation, and its call for urgent increased humanitarian action, fighting continues to intensify across the country and its impact on civilians continues to grow each day,” said Ms. Amos.

“We continue to receive reports of both Government and opposition military positions being established in populated areas and of occupation of, and indiscriminate attacks against, civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, power plants and water points.”

2.5 million people are beyond the reach of aid agencies

Ms. Amos told the Council that Government and opposition forces have laid siege to a number of cities and towns, trapping civilians and cutting off their access to basic services.

“We are still unable to provide assistance to an estimated 2.5 million people trapped in hard to reach and besieged areas,” she said. “Many of [these people] have not been reached for almost a year.”

This figure of 2.5 million represents more than a third of the 6.8 million that the UN estimates are in need of assistance.

Earlier this week, Ms. Amos issued a statement calling for a ceasefire and the immediate safe passage of civilians trapped in the besieged neighbourhood of Moadamiyeh in Rural Damascus.

“Despite my call […] for an immediate pause in hostilities […] we have still been unable to reach the area,” she said.

Displacement and disease outbreaks on the rise

The number of people fleeing their homes continues to grow. An estimated 4.25 million Syrians are now displaced within their own country. Many are living in makeshift or improvised shelters, leaving them exposed as winter approaches. A further 2.1 million have left the country, spreading the humanitarian impact of the crisis into neighbouring countries.

Last week, health officials received reports of polio in the city of Deir-ez-Zorin eastern Syria. If confirmed, these would be the first cases in Syria since the disease was eradicated 14 years ago.Elsewhere, local and international workers are reporting rapidly growing rates of malnutrition.

But despite the growing needs and limited access, the humanitarian community has been able to expand its efforts in some areas. The World Food Programme  now aims to provide food to about 4 million people every month. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and its partners have provided safe drinking water to 10 million people since the beginning of the year, and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and its partners have distributed basic relief items such as blankets and mattresses to about 2.4 million people.

“UN agencies and partners continue to work in extremely dangerous and difficult conditions across the country,” said Ms. Amos. “Yet […], despite our best efforts, the humanitarian response in Syria remains severely insufficient compared to growing needs.”

“No one is taking their obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law seriously”

Ms. Amos ended her statement by calling on the Security Council to reinvigorate its efforts to find an end to the conflict, and to help aid agencies reach people in need.

“We immediately need more humanitarian action to reach the ordinary men, women and children who, through no fault of their own, are caught up in this conflict,” she said. “No one is taking their obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law seriously.”

“Three weeks have passed [since the Security Council adopted its statement]. Each day that passes without the parties upholding their most basic obligations results in more lives lost, more displaced people, more people denied access to the most basic services.

“As we deliberate, people continue to die unnecessarily.”

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