The largest refugee crisis in the world continues to affect the region and the whole world, the Secretary-General lamented, citing stark figures: 14.6 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance and 12 million people are food insecure, “not knowing where their next meal will come from.
The needs are the highest since the beginning of the war, more than 11 years ago: “90% of the population lives below the poverty line, the infrastructures are collapsing, destroyed by years of conflict”, has he shelled.
Economic activity has halved during a decade of conflict, regional financial crises, sanctions and the COVID-19 pandemic. The economy is expected to contract further this year, he warned, citing the World Bank.
Damascus airport bombed
Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, during the same meeting gave a grim assessment of the security situation by announcing that five days ago a car bomb had killed the head of the office of a UN partner humanitarian organization in the town of Al Bab, a town 30 km south of the Turkish border.
“A deplorable attack”, which must be the subject, according to him, of an investigation, and whose authors must render accounts.
On June 10, Damascus airport, damaged by an airstrike, was closed and remains closed to this day, which led the World Food Program (WFP) – to suspend its operations, with direct consequences on the delivery of essential aid.
In addition, landmines continue to threaten communities: on June 11, 10 civilians were killed and 28 injured when a landmine exploded under a civilian vehicle transporting farmers to work in the village of Deir Eladas.
Northwestern Syria particularly vulnerable
The humanitarian situation requires, according to the Secretary-General, $4.4 billion to help Syrians who remain in the country, and an additional $5.6 billion to support refugees in the region.
“We have made great strides in scaling up the response, but more needs to be done,” Guterres urged, calling for the generous pledges made in Brussels at the last donors’ conference to be honored.
The needs in Syria are too great to be met by immediate efforts alone: more than a quarter of the money requested is intended to support recovery-related sectors, such as education, the UN chief, saying that thanks to the projects already underway, millions of people are benefiting from the rehabilitation of hospitals, schools, water and sanitation systems and other basic infrastructure damaged by war.
In northwestern Syria in particular, needs continue to grow, with 2.8 million displaced people, mainly women and children. Many live in camps or informal settlements. These are people who have suffered particularly during the eleven years of conflict and humanitarian crisis.
Extending cross-border aid from Türkiye, a “moral imperative”
Following the passage of Resolution 2585 in 2021, the United Nations was able to deliver aid across front lines to the northwest despite an “incredibly difficult” operating environment. The “massive” humanitarian response by the United Nations and its partners in Syria has averted the worst, but more must be done, urged the UN chief, stressing the importance of maintaining and expanding convoy access, including through cross-border operations that provide lifesaving aid.
Since cross-border aid from Türkiye was authorized in 2014, more than 50,000 trucks have crossed Syria to bring aid to people in need.
“The United Nations cross-border operation in Syria is one of the most scrutinized and monitored aid operations in the world,” the Secretary-General recalled, before launching a strong appeal to the members of the Council to maintain their consensus on the authorization of cross-border operations, by renewing resolution 2585 for an additional period of twelve months: a “moral imperative”, according to him.
Mr. Guterres finally recalled that the only way to end the current humanitarian tragedy in Syria was to establish a nationwide ceasefire and find a political solution allowing the Syrian people to determine their own future. .