I make this statement today on behalf of the co-penholders of the Syrian humanitarian file, Norway and Ireland. Thanks to Under-Secretary General Martin Griffiths for your briefing. Martin, you have set before us in stark terms the enormity of the humanitarian needs facing the people of Syria. Thank you also to Mounerfah Albarouki of the Syrian National Conference for your briefing today.
I must begin by deploring the recent uptick in hostilities in Syria, in particular in the North West which have resulted in over one hundred civilian deaths since June. This flagrant disregard for the lives of Syrians is frankly unacceptable. We urge all parties to the conflict to fully respect and implement their international humanitarian law obligations, including by ensuring the protection of civilians. We also call on all States with direct influence over parties to the conflict to take any possible proactive steps that may lead to increased protection of the civilian population in Syria.
Syrians are facing into yet another bitter winter. With resilience levels at record lows after ten years of conflict, Syrians are now worse off than at any time since the conflict began.
In the North West, many of the 2.8 million displaced persons find themselves living in overcrowded flimsy tents, in valleys that flood, or on rocky hillsides exposed to harsh weather. Recent winters in Syria have seen many killed or injured as fires have ripped through crowded camps, storms have wreaked havoc, and flooding has washed away thousands of tents and destroyed temporary homes.
The onset of these harsh winter conditions is coinciding with rising fuel prices and food scarcity. Tragically, lives will once again be lost this winter, and we recognise the disproportionate impact that these severe conditions, and the ongoing conflict and violence, have on both women and children. The extreme fragility of the situation underlines the imperative of ensuring that help can reach those most in need, through the continued provision of humanitarian access and adequate funding for the winterisation response.
Furthermore, we must not lose sight of 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.
The harsh winter conditions will create fresh operational difficulties for the complex humanitarian access landscape in Syria. We note the increase this year in cross-line access to the North East. We welcome the news of a potential inter-agency cross-line convoy to the North West, which will build upon the first WFP cross-line mission which took place in August. We also welcome the continued efforts at the large cross border operation at Bab al Hawa. Thanks to the principled decision of this Council in July, this cross border operation is continuing to provide a lifeline to 3.4 million people in need who are now facing another winter against the backdrop of an intensification of hostilities, a deepening economic crisis, an unprecedented rise in COVID-19, and a severe funding crisis.
We are concerned about the deteriorating security situation at the Al Hol camp as reported by the Secretary General this month. The daily reality for these vulnerable people is a continuing struggle to access food, medical care, clean water, protection, and other basic services, not to mention their exposure to the spread of Covid. It is critical that security provided at this camp is done so in a manner that neither endangers residents nor restricts humanitarian access.
The past two months have seen a sharp increase in the number of COVID 19 infections in Syria. For instance in the North West, it has been described as an uncontrolled outbreak, with the positivity rate reported to have doubled in the last month, resulting in widespread illness and death.. This has put enormous pressure on an already fragile health system, and adds to the urgency of protecting access to water and sanitation. All parties must facilitate humanitarian access and uphold ceasefires to enable medical humanitarian teams to undertake their vital functions, including safely delivering Covid-19 vaccinations to those who need it the most.
In closing I would like to underline our commitment to support the people of Syria in the face of this grave humanitarian crisis. As co-penholders, our approach continues to be informed by the words of the Secretary General who tells us that communities are determined to restart their lives, yet desperately need an end to the conflict, lifesaving aid, early recovery support and respect for fundamental human rights to do so. Our collective efforts on this Council must surely be dedicated to ensuring that Syrians who have suffered through this terrible conflict can live with dignity and hope for a better future.