Syria: Needs rise amid deepening humanitarian and economic crisis

A young girl sits next to a water trucking point in Hasakah city, northeast Syria.
© UNICEF/Delil Souleiman
A young girl sits next to a water trucking point in Hasakah city, northeast Syria.

Syria: Needs rise amid deepening humanitarian and economic crisis

Peace and Security

Humanitarian needs in Syria have reached their worst levels since conflict began nearly 12 years ago, the Security Council heard on Wednesday. 

Ambassadors were briefed by the UN Special Envoy Geir Pedersen and UN Humanitarian Affairs Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, who stressed the need to give Syrians hope. 

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Some 14.6 million people require support – a 1.2 million increase over 2021 – and the number is expected to reach 15.3 million next year.   

“Syrians are facing an ever-deepening humanitarian and economic crisis – inside and outside the country, and in both Government-controlled areas and areas outside Government control, where the situation remains most dire, especially in camps for the displaced,” said Mr. Pedersen. 

A bleak picture 

The UN envoy reported that needs are rising as resources are dwindling. 

Electricity and fuel are scarcer than ever, while many people are unable to access clean water and healthcare.  

Energy shortages have forced the Government to close state agencies for several days at a time, and the Syrian pound has fallen to new record lows.  

Even people who do not need assistance because they receive regular salaries now require support. 

Potential for ‘catastrophic deterioration’ 

“This bleak humanitarian and economic picture is bad enough; add to it the continued armed conflict and the dangers of military escalation, and the potential for catastrophic deterioration is all too real,” Mr. Pedersen warned. 

Although no party has carried out any large-scale military operations, “dangerous dynamics” persist, he said. 

Sporadic pro-Government airstrikes in the northwest have been reported, along with Turkish airstrikes in the north, and strikes in Damascus and the southwest attributed to Israel. 

Furthermore, shelling, rocket fire and intermittent clashes have occurred on contact lines, involving “the full spectrum of actors” in the conflict, while the extremist group ISIL continues attacks against the various sides. 

Six-point agenda 

Mr. Pedersen appealed for the Council to “shift these worrying dynamics”.  He outlined a six-point agenda and urged the Council to back it. 

“I will spare no effort to bring about some movement on this extremely difficult conflict in the year ahead. We must give Syrians hope for the future,” he said. 

His first point called for stepping back from escalation and restoring relative calm on the ground.   

The envoy urged the Council to renew its framework to provide unfettered humanitarian access to all Syrians who require assistance, and by all modalities. 

He also stressed the need to resume the meetings of the Syrian Constitutional Committee and to make them more substantive.   

Detainees and missing persons 

His fourth point centred on detained, disappeared and missing persons, and his ongoing push for releases as well as information. 

“The fifth point is to further the dialogue towards identifying and implementing initial step-for-step confidence building measures,” said Mr. Pedersen, referring to engagement with Syrian stakeholders and international actors. 

“If this were done, I believe it could begin to have a meaningful impact on the lives of ordinary Syrians, shift some of the negative dynamics on the ground, and build some trust and confidence between the parties and in the political process.” 

For his final point, Mr. Pedersen highlighted the importance of engagement with Syrian civil society, including the Women’s Advisory Board. 

Struggling to survive 

Addressing the staggering needs, Mr. Griffiths reported that the vast majority of Syrian families are either struggling or unable to meet their basic needs. 

Twelve million people, over half the population, are finding it hard to put food on the table.  Nearly three million more could face food insecurity. 

The war has displaced millions of Syrians, two million of whom are living in tents, camps and makeshift shelters, even during sub-zero winter temperatures.  

Renew cross-border aid 

The country also saw a resurgence in cholera this year, with more than 60,000 cases and 100 deaths. 

A Security Council resolution that authorizes delivery of cross-border aid into northwest Syria from Türkiye is set to expire in mere weeks.  Mr. Griffiths appealed for continued support. 

“I can’t stress enough the importance of maintaining this lifeline for millions of people in the northwest," he said.  "Not renewing that resolution jeopardizes the delivery of aid when people need it the most."