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Syria: "A stain on the world’s collective conscience" - UN Humanitarian Chief

21 Sep 2016

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Al-Riad shelter, Aleppo. Credit: OCHA/J.Guerrero
 
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"This callous carnage that is the Syria conflict has long moved from the cynical to the sinful. It is chilling that these actions and levels of sufferings have been tolerated, with only limited international interference."
ERC O'Brien's Opening Remarks at London Conference Follow-up Session
 
Excellencies, Ministers, distinguished guests, 
 
I would like to thank the Governments of the United Kingdom, Kuwait, Germany and Norway for co-hosting this important event together with the United Nations.
 
The reports have indeed been endless: barrel bombs, hellfire cannons, cluster munitions, chemical weapons, thermite bombs, napalm, suicide bombs, mortars and rockets, snipers, bombs landing on schools, hospitals and civilian neighbourhoods, double-tap attacks, rape, illegal detention, torture, child recruitment, medieval sieges of entire cities, deliberately starving people to death.
 
Hundreds of thousands killed, and well over a million injured. Life expectancy has dropped by twenty years. Approximately half of the population has been displaced, 6.5 million of them inside the country, in addition to the half a million Palestinian refugees who had settled in Syria. Today, 13.5 million people need humanitarian assistance; nearly 80 per cent of Syrians live in poverty and more than two million children have been forced out of school altogether.
 
This callous carnage that is the Syria conflict has long moved from the cynical, to the sinful. It is chilling that these actions and levels of sufferings have been tolerated, with only limited international interference. This is a stain on the world’s collective conscience.
 
Yet, despite the enormous dangers in Syria, despite attacks such as those we’ve witnessed on Monday, the UN and its partners continue to provide lifesaving assistance. Each month, humanitarians deliver food to an average of 6 million people. Since the beginning of this year, more than 1.3 million people have been reached in besieged, hard-to-reach and priority locations. 
 
That being said, it appears that we have moved – once again – into reverse gear. Active conflict and insecurity, as well as numerous delays in getting the necessary approval, have been limiting factors in reaching people in need these past many weeks.  In September, only two inter-agency convoys have been authorized for dispatch – one of which was ruthlessly attacked on Monday night. 
 
Access must be sustained, and must be needs-based. And above all it must be safe. Even when approvals are granted permits given by the Government centrally do not always translate down to their security forces. 
 
In particular, despite repeated calls for the free passage of all medicines and surgical equipment in aid convoys, these life-saving items continue to be deliberately excluded or removed depriving thousands of people each month.
 
Let me be frank: we need to urgently regain the momentum, from earlier this year, on protection and access. We need an end to indiscriminate attacks that recklessly kill and injure civilians. We need all necessary action from the parties and their supporters to ensure safe, sustained, unhindered and unconditional access. And we need an immediate end to the sieges which still collectively punish hundreds of thousands of civilians mercilessly. Anything less than the full lifting of the sieges will never be enough and we cannot pretend otherwise.