Syria: Greater work needed to improve access and protection of civilians
UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos said today that despite modest progress on administrative procedures, much more needs to be done to help millions of people who continue to need assistance inside Syria. Around quarter of a million people are still trapped in besieged areas without any access to lifesaving aid, and some 2.5 million are in areas that are hard- to-reach.
Ms. Amos spoke after briefing the Security Council on the operationalization of the Presidential Statement that it passed over two months ago. The Council Statement condemned the violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, and called on all parties to the conflict to facilitate the immediate expansion of humanitarian efforts.
“The unity of the Security Council is the key,” said Ms. Amos. “I need the Council to make it absolutely clear that the targeting of civilians is against international humanitarian law and that we need to continue to do greater work to ensure that the recommendations in the Presidential Statement are achieved.”
“I was able to advise the Council that we have seen some modest progress in terms of the administrative procedures, which have been put in place over time,” she said. “However, I did remind the Council that on some of the more difficult areas - protection of civilians, demilitarization of schools and hospitals, access to besieged communities and also cross-line access to hard-to-reach areas - we have not seen any progress on those,” said Ms. Amos.
Ms. Amos’ briefing came after the Syrian Government sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, saying that it was planning to approve more visas for aid workers and open three additional humanitarian hubs inside Syria.
“We have also seen an increase in the number of humanitarian convoys approved by the Government,” said Ms. Amos. “On average, we have had three convoys approved per month but last month, we saw nine convoys.”
“But in the context of the scale of the crisis inside Syria, this is still far too few to meet the needs of the millions of people.”
The conflict, which started in March 2011, has left nearly 10 million people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. An estimated 6.5 million have lost their homes and are living in camps, abandoned buildings and with host families in Syria; another 2.2 million are now refugees.
UN agencies and humanitarian organizations are reaching people in both Government and opposition-controlled areas but security and funding constraints are limiting their work. Last month, the World Food Programme planned to reach some 4 million people with food aid but only reached 3.4 million of them due to funding shortages.
This year’s appeal for relief efforts inside Syria is only 60 per cent funded so far. Fighting continues to hamper aid efforts especially in hard-to-reach areas.
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