SC: Syria - humanitarian

Statement by Permanent Representative of Irland Ambassador Fergal Mythen on behalf of Norway and Ireland, in the Security Council meeting on Syria, 21 December 2022.

I deliver this statement on behalf of Norway and Ireland, as co-penholders on the Syria Humanitarian file. I thank Geir and Martin for your briefings today. I also thank the Secretary General, and you and your team, Martin, for the two reports we have been supplied with on the situation in Syria.

That situation could not be clearer. Syrians continue to suffer. The humanitarian situation continues to worsen. And aid, through all modalities, continues to be indispensable for millions of people across the country.

An estimated 15.3 million people in 2023 will require humanitarian protection and assistance. That is yet another significant increase, up from 14.6 million in 2022. The highest numbers in need since the beginning of this conflict.

Syrians are having to work harder than ever just to survive. Humanitarian suffering as a result of protracted conflict has been exacerbated by food insecurity, the COVID-19 pandemic, a dire economic situation, a water crisis, and cholera.

Astoundingly, from 1 January to 30 September of this year, 450 civilians, including 123 children, were killed as a result of hostilities and violence in Syria. 123 children, who should be safe and well, learning and growing and flourishing.

Civilians are not a target. We echo the Secretary General’s call upon all parties to take constant care to spare civilians and civilian objects throughout their military operations, in accordance with international humanitarian law. 

Food insecurity has reached record highs. Children in particular are suffering. Cases of severe acute malnutrition rates have doubled since last year. Many children are stunted and at risk of irreversible damage to their health. Families are unable to afford food, as the income gap soars. Parents are going without as they try to keep their children from starving. 

In this context, early recovery assistance is vital. From the provision of seeds and installation of streetlights to the rehabilitation of bakeries, schools and irrigation networks for agriculture, early recovery support is changing lives in every governorate of Syria. Between January and September, an estimated 10.8 million Syrians have been reached directly and indirectly by projects aimed at increasing resilience. We welcome this progress, underpinned by resolution 2642. It must continue.

When it comes to delivering life-saving aid to people in need across Syria, all channels of access should be consistently available. Cross-line convoys of aid to north-west Syria continue to increase in frequency and size, and we encourage continued efforts in this regard.

Despite notable progress on cross line deliveries, they remain at this time unable to substitute the size or scope of the massive UN cross-border operation. The highly monitored cross-border mechanism continues to be an indispensable lifeline providing food, shelter, WASH, protection, vaccines, and critical medical services to millions of Syrians in need.

The impact of years of conflict, instability, recurring displacements, poor living conditions and ongoing economic struggles is clear. The rise in suicide ideation and suicides is grim evidence of an encroaching mental health crisis. Conflict, hunger, and cold are stealing the lives of civilians. But so too is hopelessness caused by the burden of the ongoing conflict, and the resulting extreme hardship. It is within our power, in this room, to address at least some of that lack of hope by ensuring that aid continues to reach those most in need.

Let me repeat. 15.3 million people in 2023 will require humanitarian assistance. Colleagues, I know we often hear staggering numbers in this room. But we must remember that they are much more than numbers.  These are vulnerable people, including elderly and children, who need food, water, warmth. They need safe, dignified shelter. They need help. And they need this Council to act. We must continue to use all modalities to deliver humanitarian aid to those in need.

To echo the Secretary General, the continuation of the cross-border mechanism, which remains a lifeline for millions of people, by the Security Council is critical. It is a moral and humanitarian imperative. And we cannot abandon these people at a time of acute need.