SC: Syria - Humanitarian

Statement by co-penholders Norway and Ireland on the humanitarian situation in Syria, 24 August 2021. Delivered by Permanent Representative of Ireland, Geraldine Byrne Nason.

Today, I make this statement on behalf of the co-penholders of the Syrian humanitarian file, Norway and Ireland. We would like to thank Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mr. Martin Griffiths, Special Envoy Geir Pedersen, and Secretary General of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Mr. Khaled Erksoussi for their briefings.

Mr. President,

The last time this Council met to discuss the humanitarian situation in Syria, we adopted by consensus Resolution 2585, which extended the mandate for the Bab al-Hawa border crossing for six months with an extension of an additional six months, that is, until 10 July 2022, subject to the issuance of the Secretary General’s substantive report, with particular focus on transparency in operations, and progress on cross-line access in meeting humanitarian needs.

As co-penholders, we warmly welcome the constructive approach of this Council in recognising the need to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches those in need in Syria, and we hope that together we can build on this hard won consensus.

Since the adoption of this resolution, UN efforts to reduce hunger, build resilience, and ensure access to health care have continued to support the 3.4 million Syrians in need in the North West.

Many NGOs operating in the North West can continue to rely on UN operational support for logistics and procurement. Access to life-saving items, such as the COVID-19 vaccines, has been maintained as a direct result of the cross border operation. The UN Monitoring Mechanism has remained in place, guaranteeing the humanitarian nature of all deliveries, and ensuring a robust humanitarian operation based on transparency and accountability.

Mr. President, the situation remains dire for the men, women and children of Syria who continue to face hardship and displacement. We heard from the Secretary General this month that the combination of ongoing hostilities, economic crisis, water shortages, and COVID-19 have driven humanitarian needs for millions of already vulnerable people to some of the highest levels seen since the start of the conflict.

The critically low water levels in the Euphrates, has limited access to clean water for drinking and agriculture and led to widespread power blackouts, with a knock on effect on essential infrastructure including health facilities. Together with the drought, this has contributed to increases to the costs of food, fuel and other basic items, as well as outbreaks of water borne diseases and reduced food production, driving humanitarian needs.

This month we saw in Daraa in the South West of Syria the deadliest violence since 2018, with dozens of civilians killed and injured, and tens of thousands of people forced to leave their homes.

The mortar attacks which reportedly hit the National Hospital of Daraa are yet another appalling example of an unacceptable assault on a critical medical facility.

Increased violence over the past two months in the North West has caused civilian deaths, and displaced more than 20,000 people, the largest displacement in the area since the ceasefire of March 2020. On Friday, four children from the same family were killed while they were asleep in their home in Idlib governorate. Last Thursday three brothers were killed with their mother when their house came under attack. Since the beginning of July, at least 54 children have been killed or injured in Syria.  We call again on all parties to live up to their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians throughout Syria and ensure rapid, safe and unimpeded humanitarian access.

Mr. President,

This Council has called for efforts to improve cross-line deliveries of humanitarian assistance. While the  landscape for access in Syria remains highly complex, we call on all parties to continue to pursue all modalities that can ensure humanitarian assistance reaches those in need.

While needs in the North East are growing and continue to be unmet, we welcome the scaling up of cross line missions over the past year. We strongly support efforts to finalise a cross-line humanitarian mission to North-Western Syria and we call on all parties to support this mission so that it can take place without delay.

Mr. President,

In conclusion, we strongly support UN-led efforts to find a political solution. We know that progress on the political track is the key to transforming the humanitarian situation on the ground. We must keep the Syrian people at the heart of all of our efforts in this Council, and Martin we fully support you and your team as you work to deliver a lifeline to so many in need.