I make this statement on behalf of the co-penholders of the Syrian humanitarian file, Ireland and Norway. We would like to thank Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mr. Martin Griffiths, for his briefing today. And I also want to thank Amany Qaddour, Regional Director at Syria Relief & Development, for her powerful account of the breadth of the humanitarian needs in Syria, and the continued suffering of the Syrian people ten years into this conflict. We salute your courage and commitment to advocating for those in need.
We welcome Mr. Griffiths’ account of his visit to Syria and the region. We appreciate his engagement with all stakeholders in addressing the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people, as well as the challenges faced by neighbouring countries who have generously hosted Syrians fleeing the conflict.
Coinciding with Mr. Griffiths’ trip to Syria, we in particular welcome the two World Food Program convoys which went from Aleppo across the conflict line into the Idlib Governorate at the end of August. This was the first cross-line humanitarian operation into North-West Syria since 2017.
Together with the relative increase in cross-line deliveries to the north-east, these long-awaited pilot convoys across the conflict line to the north-west represent a much-needed progress for cross-line access for life-saving humanitarian aid in Syria. We encourage the UN to continue to pursue cross-line deliveries, and urge all actors to facilitate rapid, safe and unhindered access for humanitarian aid.
As co-penholders, we remain guided by the underlying principle that humanitarian aid must reach all people in need, and we welcome all modalities - both cross-line and cross-border - to reach the millions of people in need throughout Syria.
The fragile situation in Dar’a, and the humanitarian suffering of its people, remains of serious concern. The internal displacement of more than 36 000 civilians, shortage of food, limited access to medical services, and the disruption of electricity and water supplies, underline the need to protect the civilian population – including by ensuring humanitarian access in accordance with international humanitarian law. Women and children are among those who are in an especially vulnerable situation.
The mortar hits on the Al Shifa Hospital and National Hospital of Dar’a on 30 of August – and also the reported damage to a medical point and two civilian deaths during the bombardment of Jabal Al Zawiah in the north-west on 7 of September – are grim reminders of the security risks facing medical staff in Syria.
At least 25 health workers have died due to attacks in this year alone. We call on all parties to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law, and protect those who risk their lives while saving others. Health workers must be protected, not attacked.
The damage to a school in Dar’a al Balad, also on the 30 of August, is yet another example of how the conflict has impeded access to education for the next generation of young Syrian boys and girls. The crisis has left over 7000 schools damaged or destroyed, and roughly 2 million children out of school.
With the school year starting now in September, we reiterate this Council’s condemnation of attacks against schools in contravention of international humanitarian law. And we are urging all parties to the armed conflict to refrain from actions that impede children’s access to education.
Attacks on health facilities, the destruction of schools, increased displacement and civilian deaths, compounded by the widespread food insecurity and economic decline, have led to increased humanitarian needs in Syria.
These challenges are magnified by the ongoing threat of COVID, and we note with alarm the recent rapid increase in cases, particularly in North-West Syria.
The water crisis in Syria in particular demonstrates the complexity of the humanitarian response. The closure of water stations has not only disrupted water supply, but reduced the supply of electricity, with a consequent negative impact on the operation of hospitals and schools. On this note, we welcome the recent news that Alouk water plant is again operating – this must continue.
All of this underlines the need for a broader humanitarian response, including water, sanitation, health, education and shelter early recovery projects, geared towards providing for the immediate needs of Syrians.
As penholders we remain guided by the humanitarian needs of the people in Syria, and we fully support the UN and all humanitarian actors in their efforts to deliver lifesaving aid to those in need.