UN agencies have underscored their commitment to continue supporting civilians affected by the war in Syria, which this month enters its tenth year. The Secretary-General issued a statement on Thursday, declaring that “we cannot allow the tenth year to result in the same carnage, the same flouting of human rights and international humanitarian law.”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Thursday highlighted the need for a peaceful solution to the crisis in a message posted on his Twitter account.
“The conflict in Syria is entering its tenth year. A decade of fighting has brought nothing but ruin and misery. And civilians are paying the gravest price. There is no military solution. Now it is the time to give diplomacy a chance to work”, he wrote.
Overall, more than 11 million people across Syria require aid relief, nearly half of them children, according to latest estimates.
Fighting has displaced more than six million people inside Syria, sometimes repeatedly, while another five million Syrians are living as refugees in neighbouring countries.
“The Syrian conflict has entered its tenth year, yet peace still remains far too elusive. The brutal conflict has exacted an unconscionable human cost and caused a humanitarian crisis of monumental proportions”, said Mr. Guterres.
“Millions of civilians continue to face protection risks…We have seen nine years of horrific atrocities, including war crimes. Nine years of human rights abuses on a massive and systematic scale, eroding international norms to new depths of cruelty and suffering.
“Tens of thousands are missing, disappeared, detained, subjected to ill-treatment and torture. Untold numbers have been killed and injured. There must be no impunity for such horrific crimes”, the UN chief said.
The “brutal simplicity” of these numbers belies the complexity of the crisis, according to UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Mark Lowcock.
“In the northwest, women and children are sleeping in the open and fleeing bombs. In the northeast, children have spent their entire lives in camps. Elsewhere across the country, people’s prospects and hope for the future are being gradually eroded in the face of economic crisis”, he said, ahead of the anniversary.
Healthcare under attack
The situation in Idlib governorate, in northwest Syria, remains a pressing concern for the humanitarian community.
A Government assault against terrorist groups, launched in December, has pushed nearly one million people out of their homes and into ever-shrinking safer areas near the border with Turkey.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that only half of the 550 health facilities in the region remain open nearly a decade after the war began.
Syria represents one of the worst cases of healthcare being affected by conflict, according to the agency, with a total of 494 attacks recorded between 2016-2019, mainly in the northwest.
During that same period, 470 people were killed in attacks on health facilities.
“What is troubling is that we’ve come to a point where attacks on health – something the international community shouldn’t tolerate – are now taken for granted; something we have become accustomed to. “, said Richard Brennan, WHO Regional Emergency Director in the Eastern Mediterranean.
“And they are still taking place”.
Cross-border aid ‘lifeline’
Aid is delivered into Idlib through a cross-border operation from Turkey which has been scaled up as needs increase.
The UN Security Council first authorized the cross-border mechanism in 2014 and this past January, trucks carried enough food assistance for roughly 1.4 million people. They also transported health supplies for nearly half a million people, and non-food items for 230,000: more than any other month since the process began.
While in Turkey last week, the head of the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, visited the humanitarian logistics hub in Bab Al Hawa, located on the border with Syria.
“Sending aid across Syria’s borders has been a lifeline for vulnerable families,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said on Saturday at the conclusion of her two-day visit.
Funding saves lives
The UN and its partners are seeking $3.3 billion for the humanitarian response in Syria this year.
They also will require an additional $5.2 billion to support Syrian refugees and host communities across the region.
Last year, humanitarians reached over six million people each month throughout Syria. They pledge that with support, they will reach as many people as possible this year.
“The people of Syria need international humanitarian law to be respected”, said Mr. Lowcock, who underscored the UN position that a political solution is the only way to resolve the conflict.
“In the meantime, the UN will continue to help as many people as possible, wherever they are located. Lives can be saved and suffering alleviated when funding is in place.”