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Syria: UN humanitarian chief calls for stop in fighting

29 Jan 2020


A family displaced by the fighting in Idleb. Credit: OCHA

In a briefing today to the United Nations Security Council, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock expressed alarm about the deteriorating humanitarian situation affecting women and children, in particular in the north-west of the country, and called on all parties to stop the fighting and facilitate access for humanitarian workers and supplies to address civilians’ essential needs.

Underscoring that hostilities have escalated in recent days in the Idleb area, especially around Ma’arat al-Numan, Saraqeb and western Aleppo, the humanitarian chief noted that the most alarming reports have come from southern Idleb, where hundreds of airstrikes by the Government of Syria and its allies have been concentrated.

“The violence in north-west Syria is deplorable,” said Mr. Lowcock in his statement.

“Many families are moving multiple times. They arrive in a place thought to be safe, only for the bombs to follow, so they are then forced to move again. This cycle is all too familiar in north-west Syria.”

Most of the affected people have been moving from southern Idleb to other locations in non-government-controlled areas, the humanitarian chief said. According to the latest assessments, at least 20,000 people have moved in the past two days. Some 115,000 have left in the past week, and nearly 390,000 have fled in the past two months.

Mark Cutts, United Nations Deputy Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis

Mr. Lowcock said that efforts by humanitarian organizations within Syria to provide assistance cross-line, including those by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, have not yet been facilitated by the parties in control.

“The cross-border humanitarian operations have staved off a massive humanitarian catastrophe in the north-west, but let us make no mistake about it: civilians are still suffering terribly,” the humanitarian chief said.

Mr. Lowcock emphasized that under current conditions, humanitarian responders do not have the capacity to meet the level of need. He said that families that have been recently displaced and are currently in makeshift shelters and unfinished buildings have been making desperate appeals for more support.

Noting that he talked to Syrians in Idleb again last week, he stressed that people feel increasingly under siege, as well as traumatized and abandoned by the world.

“They don’t understand why this Council is unable to stop the carnage amongst a civilian population trapped in a war zone,” said Mr. Lowcock. “Their message to you is essentially the same one I relayed when I briefed you on 30 July: ‘We are afraid. Please help us. Make it stop.’”

The most urgent need, said the humanitarian chief, is to protect the civilian population and to scale up the humanitarian response. “In order for that to be possible, I call on all parties to facilitate safe and unhindered access for humanitarian workers and supplies to address civilians’ essential needs,” he said.

“Parties to the conflict, and those with influence, must stop the fighting,” said Mr. Lowcock. “Unless the current hostilities stop, we will see an even greater humanitarian catastrophe. I hope you will take every step to avoid that.”