Syria: UN official cites bleak humanitarian situation, urges unhindered access to civilians

NEW YORK: The United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator warned the Security Council today that as the Syrian civil war grinds on and millions of desperate people remain cut off from aid, “the humanitarian situation remains bleak, and will continue to be bleak, unless we are granted full and unhindered access, through the most efficient and direct means.” Ms. Amos, who is also the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs was speaking to the press after briefing Council members on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s latest report on implementation of the key elements of resolution 2139 (2014), which focused on humanitarian access to besieged and hard-to-reach areas, including across conflict lines and across borders, and the expansion of humanitarian relief operations She said while the Council’s resolution had demanded an end to the fighting and enhanced access for aid and relief workers, the situation for desperate civilians had not changed and the violence had only intensified in the four weeks since the text’s adoption, with many people killed and injured.

“Moreover, since 22 February, some 300 cases of sexual violence have been recorded in Damascus and Rural Damascus alone. “I am also very concerned that hundreds of thousands of people have been newly displaced from areas like eastern Aleppo and Yabroud in the south – driving them further from the reach of humanitarian assistance,” she added.

“One month since the adoption of [the resolution] humanitarian access in [Syria] remains extremely challenging for humanitarian organizations. Delivering life-saving items, in particular medicines, remains difficult. The assistance reaching people continues to fall far short of what is required to cover even their basic needs.” For her part, Ms. Amos said the UN and its humanitarian partners have been able to provide some assistance through cross-line convoys including to areas where people had not had aid for months. “But in many situations the lack of security or those controlling checkpoints continue to prevent vital and basic aid from reaching people.” The first UN cross-border convoy for affected communities in al-Hassakeh entered Syria via the Nusaybin/Qamishly crossing point in the last week. The trucks carried food for 50,000 people, medicines for 60,000 and household items like blankets and clothing for over 60,000.

However, the humanitarian situation remains bleak, and would continue to be bleak, unless full, unhindered and direct access was granted. “Only six per cent of the people living in besieged areas have received assistance in the past month,” she said.

The Council’s resolution was very clear on these points, she said, adding that the rules of international humanitarian law are also clear. “The continued withholding of consent to cross -border or cross-line relief operations, particularly of commodities privileged throughout the Geneva Conventions – like food, water, medical treatment and supplies, or shelter – is arbitrary and unjustified.”