Syria: UN Humanitarian Chief urges Security Council to “end this brutal conflict”
The United Nation’s Humanitarian Chief, Valerie Amos, has called on the Security Council to find an immediate political solution to the conflict in Syria, warning that continued failure could see the country reach a “point of no return”.
“The situation in Syria is a humanitarian catastrophe with ordinary people paying the price for the failure to end the conflict,” she told the Security Council in New York.
According to the UN, 6.8 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, including 4.25 million who are internally displaced. A further 1.3 million have fled the country and sought refuge in neighbouring countries.
Vital infrastructure has been devastated. UN assessment missions report that some cities have been almost entirely reduced to rubble, and widespread power disruptions have left countless communities without access to water. Almost a third of all houses across the country have been damaged or destroyed.
However, Ms Amos explained that even these figures fail to reveal the true horror of the conflict that has entered its third year.
“(Our) descriptions cannot begin to give you the real picture of the horrors being meted out every day. We have heard testimonies of houses burnt with families inside: of people being bombed and killed while queuing for a piece of bread.
“This is the reality of Syria today,” she said.
Ms Amos reported that humanitarian access, especially to opposition-controlled areas, continues to be difficult, and has been further exacerbated by new bureaucratic hurdles. In February and March, a Government decision to stop the cross-line operations of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent left 276,000 people in the city of Homs without support.
Ms Amos told the Security Council that the authorities now require every vehicle in an aid convoy to carry a permit signed by two ministers in order to pass Government checkpoints.
“When I tell the Council that a convoy from Damascus to Aleppo goes through 50 checkpoints … you will appreciate the impossibility of this request. We cannot do business this way,” she said.
Despite these and other challenges, UN agencies and their humanitarian partners have been able to reach millions with crucial assistance. More than five million people now have access to safe water thanks to UNICEF and its partners, with a further 5 million expected to be reached in coming months. An estimated 2.7 million have received primary health care from the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners. Two million people received food assistance from the World Food Programme in March – an increase of 300,000 on the previous month.
Efforts on the ground were bolstered by news this week that the Kuwaiti Government has allocated $300 million to the UN’s appeal for Syria. However, even with this significant injection of funds, only half of the $1.5 billion needed to meet Syria’s humanitarian needs until June have been received.
“I cannot overstate the seriousness of the current situation in Syria,” concluded Ms Amos. “I do not have an answer for those Syrians I have spoken to who asked me why the world has abandoned them.
“My appeal to this Council is on behalf of the Syrian people but it is also on behalf of all those seeking to assist them. We are losing hope. We cannot do our jobs properly.
“We look to you to take the action necessary to end this brutal conflict.”