For the first time in six months, there has been some improvement recently on humanitarian access to Syria, but much more needs to be done by the parties to the conflict to ensure rapid and unhindered access to people in need, a senior United Nations relief official told the Security Council today.
“The progress in access during the past month has shown that where there is political will, there is a way to improve the situation for millions of civilians in Syria. We must all redouble our efforts until we reach everyone in need with humanitarian assistance,” said Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Kyung-wha Kang.
Six months ago, the Security Council adopted resolution 2139 with the aim of pressing the parties to the conflict to abide by basic international legal obligations and to reduce the suffering of ordinary people caught up in the conflict.
Last month, the 15-member body adopted resolution 2165, authorizing cross-border and cross-line access for the UN and its partners to deliver humanitarian aid in Syria without the consent of the State, and establishing a monitoring mechanism for 180 days.
“We are reaching more people in need in hard-to-reach areas as a result of the adoption of resolution 2165 by this Council,” said Ms. Kang, reporting that for the first time in six months, there has been some improvement on humanitarian access.
She added the monitoring mechanism is now operational at the three border crossings of Bab al-Hawa, Bab al-Salam and Al Ramtha. The deployment of monitoring teams to Iraq remains pending due to insecurity in the north-western part of the country, but the situation is constantly being assessed.
Access across borders has resulted in broader coverage in hard-to-reach areas in Syria such as Aleppo, Dara, Rural Damascus, Idleb, Quineitra and Lattakia Governorates. The UN has now sent nine shipments to Syria from neighbouring countries pursuant to resolution 2165. This included seven shipments from Turkey and two from Jordan.
“More shipments are planned over the next month in close coordination with the humanitarian team in Damascus, in line with the UN’s whole-of-Syria approach where cross-line and cross-border access complement each other to maximize our reach to those in need,” said Ms. Kang.
“Despite these developments, much more needs to be done by the parties to ensure that access is rapid, regular, safe, and unhindered,” she added, noting that 241,000 people remain under siege.
She said administrative hurdles imposed by the Government of Syria continue to hamper the delivery of aid. Governors are still not allowed to approve the delivery of humanitarian assistance in their governorates without first consulting Damascus.
In addition, the operational constraints placed on non-governmental organizations have not been removed. Designated terrorist groups, as well as armed opposition groups, continue to block access to the hard-to-reach eastern governorates of Syria.
Ms. Kang warned that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Al-Nusra Front are advancing towards the border crossings of Bab al-Salam and Bab al-Hawa along the main access routes in Syria, and that this could threaten the additional cross-border operations authorized under resolution 2165.
On the overall humanitarian situation, she reported that over the past six months, the plight of people in Syria has not reduced but has deepened.
“The violence and conflict continues unabated, with more deaths of women, children and men. The social and economic fabric of the country has been ripped to shreds,” she stated.
According to data collected by human rights organizations from various sources, July 2014 was a “particularly harrowing month” since the start of the conflict for civilians in Syria, with over 1,000 civilian deaths and injuries.
In Aleppo Governorate, a marked increase in the indiscriminate use of barrel bombs by the Government was registered in residential neighbourhoods, where civilians, including women and children, with no means to leave, still struggle to survive.
“The advancement of ISIL into central Syria is taking the violence meted out to unprotected civilians to a new level. The group continues to commit horrific atrocities against those opposing its rule,” said Ms. Kang.
In Deir-Ez-Zor, for example, community sources report that up to 700 members of the Al-Sheitaat Arab tribe, whom ISIL accused of apostasy, have been killed or kidnapped over the past two weeks, some beheaded or crucified. Reports also indicate that women from the tribe are being sold in markets in Iraq.
“Now more than ever before, the Council must do all it can to end the conflict and ensure that humanitarian access increases so that we can reach all those who are desperately in need in Syria,” Ms. Kang stated.
“UN humanitarian agencies and our partners are doing everything we can to meet those needs, but, as we have repeatedly said, the solution to this crisis does not rest with us.”