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. Mark Lowcock and Special Envoy Geir O. Pedersen for their briefings today.
We meet today for the first Security Council meeting of 2021 on the humanitarian situation in Syria. Almost ten years have passed since the conflict began.
After turning the page on 2020, we continue to witness an extremely challenging humanitarian situation throughout the country.
Our role as humanitarian penholders will reflect a long-term engagement with the humanitarian response in Syria. The overall objective will be to ensure that humanitarian assistance continues to reach all people in need- by all means, and modalities necessary- in line with the humanitarian principles.
The total number of people in need of humanitarian assistance and protection increased from 11 million to a record high of 13 million people over the past year. The socio-economic crisis in Syria continues to spiral to new disastrous depths.
Throughout the country we have seen increasing food prices, worsened fuel shortages, and continued loss of livelihoods – all further exacerbated by COVID-19. In all likelihood, more than half of Syria’s population now faces food insecurity.
We are concerned as the number of reported COVID-19 cases continues to rise, with a disastrous impact on an already shattered health system. With limited or lacking test capacity, indicators like fatality ratio, leave little doubt that community transmission is widespread. It is vital that the Syrian healthcare system receives the support needed to battle the pandemic, including equitable access to vaccines. Needless to say, we give our full support to the WHO’s efforts.
Clean and uninterrupted water supplies are essential in all situations, but even more so in the midst of a pandemic. We are deeply concerned by renewed reports of interruptions at the Allouk water station denying more than half a million people access to their primary source of water. All parties involved must commit to a settlement, and support UN efforts to find a sustainable solution.
Winter came late, but it has hit hard. People now go cold and hungry all over Syria. The impact on the over two million internally displaced persons living in inadequate emergency shelters is devastating. Several children have died tragically in tent fires as families try to keep warm.
We are following with concern the winter storms in the north west of the country, which are reportedly the biggest so far this season. The heavy rainfall across western Aleppo and Idlib Governorates in northwest Syria has reportedly caused damage to sites for internally displaced people. Reports say that at least 41,200 people have been affected and at least 62 camps have been damaged or destroyed by the storm. We ask for the urgent scaling up of the relief efforts for children and families in the affected areas.
The protection needs of Syrians are mounting. Earlier this month, we again received heartbreaking news of children killed in accidents caused by unexploded ordnance in like Daraa and Dayr al-Zawr. They were not the first, and will not be the last. The hard work of humanitarian mine clearance has barely begun. This also demonstrates the need to step up efforts in mine risk education in all affected areas.
Reports by the Secretary-General underscore the immense and growing humanitarian needs facing Syrians. The UN, The International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, and NGO partners continue to mount one of the world’s largest humanitarian responses, reaching an average of 7.4 million people per month across Syria. The ongoing response demonstrates the need for ensuring a principled approach to humanitarian assistance and protection, reaching people in all parts of the country.
While humanitarian access remains challenging, some progress has been made in certain areas of the country over the past year. We hope to see this development continue in 2021.
Recent reports from the Secretary-General and humanitarian partners emphasize that cross line support to the northeast is still not reaching the population on a scale sufficient to meet their needs. We therefore call on all parties involved to facilitate a concerted scaling up of crossline support.
In the northwest, thanks to the efforts of the UN and its partners, the crossing at Bab al Hawa continues to play an indispensable role in the delivery of aid to the 3 million people in need.
In closing, I want to pay tribute to all humanitarian, and medical personnel for their tireless efforts. We call on all parties to adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law, and protect those who risk their lives while saving others.