Image: UN Photo/Loey Felipe
New York: “Irreversible damage” is being caused to the lives of Syrian civilians due to chronic under-funding of the international effort said the UN’s Assistant Secretary-General for humanitarian affairs on Monday, who told the Security Council the future of a whole generation was at stake.
“Lack of funding comes with severe consequences”, Joyce Msuya told ambassadors, “including more drop-outs from school, higher malnutrition rates, and less protection interventions. If we do not act now, a generation of Syrian children might be lost.
“It is critical that this Council shares responsibility for humanitarians’ life-saving work in Syria”, she said.
The senior OCHA official and deputy emergency relief coordinator was briefing on the latest situation across Syria, along with Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, who told the Council that there were troubling signs of military escalation in recent months, and no sign of a revitalized peace process to finally end the war.
Access to the needy
Ms. Msuya added that all parties to Syria’s more than 11 year-long civil war have “an obligation to facilitate rapid and unimpeded humanitarian access to all civilians in need”, calling on the Syrian Government and their international backers such as Russia, rebel groups, Kurdish fighters and others, to facilitate access.
She said that while support was needed now, it will be even more necessary as temperatures plummet, “and our response shifts gears. We know the Syrian winter will bring more hardship, and we remain determined to assist people everywhere we can. We count on your support to stay the course.”
She noted the uptick in violence both in the remaining pockets of the northwest under rebel control, and inside the camps where thousands of family members of alleged ISIL terrorist fighters and others displaced, are being held.
This month, an attack in Al Hasakeh on 18 August claimed the lives of four civilian women and girls, while an attack on a market in Al Bab city on 19 August reportedly killed 13 civilians, including four boys and one girl.
“The lives of these Syrian children were wiped out or forever altered”, she said. “Violence breeds fear of more violence, and both make people flee. As we hear renewed statements and read reports about preparations for a possible military operation in northern Syria, displacement is already happening.”
She made a strong appeal to the members of the Council “to ensure respect for the rules of war and accountability for serious violations.”
Violence rises in Al Hol
She said at least 26 murders have been reported at Al Hol camp, including those of 20 women, and the UN continues to receive reports of sexual violence, “some perpetrated by the camp’s guards. In addition, humanitarian partners have reported an increase in sexual exploitation cases.”
If violence erupts in the north she said an “already extremely bad” security situation at the camp was likely to get worse, and “women and girls especially will be at even greater risk. Humanitarian organizations’ movements to the camp and to neighbouring areas could be further restricted, disrupting emergency and essential services.”
Another plea on repatriation
She called again for Member States to take urgent action and fulfil their responsibility to repatriate their citizens. She pointed to Iraq which had repatriated 151 families earlier this month, while more 70 internally-displaced families had also successfully left for areas in Deir-ez-Zor.
As always, she said, Syria’s ongoing economic crisis disproportionately affects women, girls, boys and people with disabilities, particularly their mobility and their access to basic services.
On access issues, she said the UN was doing “everything in its power to make progress on cross-line assistance to all parts of Syria.”
A sixth cross-line mission to Sarmada, in Idleb Governorate, was completed on 4 and 5 August, and she urged all parties to expand these operations by allowing multiple cross-line convoys each month and increasing the number of trucks.
No momentum for peace: Pedersen
Syria Special Envoy Pedersen said he was growing concerned that the “troubling signs” of military escalation and increase in strikes by multiple combatants, “could see events further unravel, with civilians continuing to pay an already immense cost.”
Speaking from Geneva, he warned that international peace and security “will be at risk, given the international nature of many of these latest clashes”.
He took note of the various diplomatic efforts to de-escalate, hoping that these different efforts can unite to restore the calm across Syria, towards a nationwide ceasefire, something which we will underline to Ceasefire Task Force participants here in Geneva.”
No place for terrorists
He said a ceasefire would also require parallel efforts to address the presence of listed terrorist groups, “in a cooperative manner that is in line with international law and which protects civilians and civilian infrastructure.”
“We need a political process that moves steadily forward – and we do not have that at present.”
Mr. Pedersen told ambassadors there are “mounting challenges” to putting in place the longstanding Council resolution 2254, for a Syrian-led peace process, expressing regret that over two years of relative calm, progress has not been made.
We need a political process that moves steadily forward – and we do not have that at present.
UN Special Envoy Geir Pedersen
“We will continue to work intensely to resolve issues and resume the Constitutional Committee in Geneva. And we will continue to look for opportunities for step-for-step confidence building measures, while paying special attention to the file of the detained, the abducted and the missing.”
He said the Council needed to be realistic “about the mismatch between the scale of our collective political efforts and the scale of the challenge at hand. The degree of fragmentation in Syria, the region and internationally – and deficits of trust and will – are preventing us from doing what needs to be done – addressing this conflict in a comprehensive manner, with serious compromise and investment, involving all players.”
That is the only way, he reminded ambassadors, “to avoid another dangerous collapse. This is the only way to reunite and repair a fragmented country and people, to genuinely restore Syria’s sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity, to end the displacement crisis and to allow the Syrian people to chart their own future.”
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