Syria: Ordinary people are paying a terrible price, says Valerie Amos

23 Jan 2013

December 2012, Turkey: Syrian refugee children look out from the door of their family’s tent in Islahiye camp, Gaziantep Province. UNHCR works closely with the Turkish Red Crescent to provide shelter for Syrian refugees. Credit: UNHCR/B. Sokol edit
UN Humanitarian Chief says aid organizations need more access to respond to the growing needs of Syrians.

United Nations Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos called today (23 Jan) on the international community to find a political solution to the crisis in Syria which continues to claim more lives and to displace more people. She said aid organizations desperately need more resources to respond to the crisis. 

“Ordinary people are paying a terrible price for the failure of the international community to agree steps to resolve this political crisis,” she said addressing the press at a World Food Programme event on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos. 
“Day after day we are all seeing and hearing appalling reports on our television screens, on the internet and in the newspapers of more violence and hardship.” 
Nearly one in five people in Syria need humanitarian assistance, including scores of children who have been caught up in the brutal violence which started nearly two years ago, in March 2011. The particularly harsh winter is exacerbating the situation, affecting displaced families who live in shelters without adequate insulation, winter clothes and blankets. 
“While we on the humanitarian side cannot end the political crisis or the fighting, the humanitarian community continues to try to do more to help Syrians caught up in the conflict,” said USG Amos. “We are, of course, frustrated by the many challenges we face inside Syria, but every month we and our partners are feeding more people, delivering basic relief items, and supplementing basic health and education services.”
Despite immense security challenges and limited access, UN agencies and humanitarian partners have scaled up aid and are reaching people in all Governorates across the country. WFP is currently reaching about 1.5 million people a month with vital food assistance. UNICEF and WHO have helped vaccinate millions of children against measles and polio. UNHCR and partners continue to support hundreds of thousands of refugees in neighbouring countries.  
“But it is just not enough, especially as we cannot keep pace with the rising number of people in acute need,” said Ms. Amos. “We need more people, we need more partners, and we need to be able to deliver more quickly.” 
She said the UN was in regular contact with the Syrian authorities and other parties to the conflict to speed up slow administrative procedures and improve the understanding of humanitarian work which is based on the principles of neutrality and impartiality.
Earlier this week, Emergency Directors from eight UN agencies visited Syria and Lebanon to assess the humanitarian situation on the ground. The team, led by OCHA Operations Director John Ging, spoke to representatives from local authorities and the opposition about the need for more humanitarian access and a greater presence on the ground.  
“We must not forget that the bulk of the humanitarian aid is being provided by Syrians to other Syrians, and I am inspired by the courage and dedication of humanitarian staff and volunteers in Syria who are doing all they can to help people in need,” said USG Amos. “We must do all we can to support them.”
In December, aid organizations appealed for US$1.5 billion to respond to the Syria crisis within the country and in neighbouring countries hosting hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. High-level representatives from Governments, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations will gather in Kuwait City on 30 January for the International Humanitarian Pledging Conference to support the Syria Humanitarian Assistance Response and Regional Refugee Response plans.    
“We hope that the conference will yield the resources we need. If we do not receive these funds, we will not be able to reach the poorest and most vulnerable families who so desperately need our help,” said Ms. Amos.