The situation on the ground in Syria has “dramatically” worsened as the country enters its fifth year of war amid escalating fighting and targeted attacks against civilians, the top United Nations humanitarian official warned today as she urged the international community to bring the violence to an end.
“Civilians continue to bear the brunt of this conflict,” Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos told the Security Council this afternoon during a briefing on the situation in Syria.
“The inability of this Council and countries with influence over the different parties at war in Syria to agree on the elements for a political solution in the country means that the humanitarian consequences will continue to be dire for millions of Syrians.”
The conflict, which began in March 2011, has already claimed more than 220,000 lives, according to UN estimates. Meanwhile, more than 12.2 million people continue to require life-saving aid. The fighting has also provoked massive displacement with more than 4 million people having sought refuge in neighbouring countries, while a further 7.6 million are displaced within Syria.
At the same time, over 2 million people in Aleppo and Dar'a Governorates have been affected by wilful denial of water and electricity by parties to the conflict this month. Of the 212,000 people who are besieged, in conditions that deteriorate every day, only 304 were reached with food in January.
In other areas where conditions deteriorate every day, parties to the conflict severely restrict access to those in need. In Raqqa and Deir ez Zor, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has closed down the offices of several aid organizations, including the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.
In addition, Ms. Amos observed that children were “particularly badly affected” by the hostilities with 5.6 million children now in need of assistance and well over 2 million children out of school.
“Basic services continue to be deliberately attacked at cut,” she continued. “As needs grow humanitarian organizations need to reach more people, but we are facing increasing difficulties in reaching the 4.8 million people who live in areas which are hard to reach. And as the violence escalates and conflict lines continue to shift, I fear that these numbers will rise. Access continues to be constrained by insecurity and active fighting but the parties to the conflict are increasingly, deliberately obstructing the delivery of life-saving aid.”
In a recent briefing of the Security Council, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which Ms. Amos heads, already cautioned that it could not keep up with the needs of Syria's people because there is simply not enough funding. By the end of last year, the Syria Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan for 2014 was just 48 per cent funded.
Lack of funding has already forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to reduce rations by 30 per cent. And for every million dollars that WHO cannot raise in Syria, some 227,000 people lose vital health services. And unless urgent funding is received before May 2015, a million children will not be able to access education.
Pointing to the upcoming Kuwait Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, to be held on 31 March, Ms. Amos explained that the international community once again had “an opportunity to raise some of the resources required to maintain our life saving work” and encouraged Member States to “give generously.”
For its part, the Security Council also highlighted the lack of funding which, it said, had “forced humanitarian agencies to reduce food rations” by 30 per cent.
In a press statement released following the briefing, the 15 member Council warned that unless urgent funding is received before May 2015, one million Syrian children who are not attending school will not be able to access alternative education options. The UN body added that it welcomed the upcoming pledging conference as an opportunity “to respond with generous pledges of new humanitarian and development funding.”
“Day after day, month after month, year after year, the death, destruction and violence in Syria grows,” Valerie Amos declared. “As Council members have said many times, there is no humanitarian solution to the crisis. The international community must demonstrate greater determination to reach a long overdue political solution.”