Joint Statement on behalf of Ireland and Norway at UNSC Briefing on Syria - Humanitarian
Statement25 February 2021
I make this statement today on behalf of the co-penholders of the Syrian humanitarian file, Norway and Ireland. We would like to thank Under-Secretary General Mark Lowcock for your briefing today, thank you Mark. We are also very grateful for presence of our civil society briefer Sonia Khush from Save the Children for the insights you have just shared with us.
Next month will mark ten long years of conflict in Syria; a conflict that has driven widespread suffering for the Syrian people and created a deeply embedded humanitarian crisis, underscored by a shattered economy and deeply degraded health and education systems.
Over the past ten years, this Council has heard many harrowing reports. Each time, we imagine things could hardly get worse. However, the Secretary-General tells us that humanitarian needs have increased by one fifth in the last year alone.
A record 12.4 million Syrians, 60 percent of the population, are being denied their most basic right to food, struggling to find enough food to eat, and as we heard child malnutrition is rapidly increasing.
Harsh winter conditions have coincided with rising fuel prices, leaving basic heating out of the reach for many Syrians. Tragically, lives continue to be lost among Syria’s most vulnerable in fires resulting from efforts to keep warm.
The dreadful conditions caused by flooding in the North Westhave added to the hardship for 141,000 displaced persons, as tents and schools have been destroyed, demonstrating once again the fragility of the situation and the imperative of ensuring that help can reach those most in need.
We recognise the disproportionate impact that these conditions, and the ongoing conflict and violence, have on women and on children. The misery endured by Syrian civilians is unimaginable for most of us.
We are alarmed by the conflict-related sexual violence against children in Syria. This has devastating consequences for these children, for their communities, for the society at large. All parties to the conflict must take immediate and specific measures to end this scourge and comply with international humanitarian law and human rights law.
The threat of Covid-19 further adds to the urgency of protecting access to water and sanitation. It’s crucial that the healthcare system across Syria is supported in battling the pandemic. All parties must facilitate humanitarian access and uphold ceasefires to enable medical humanitarian teams to undertake their vital functions, including safely delivering Covid-19 vaccinations to those who need it the most.
As humanitarian penholders, we are keenly aware of the necessity to ensure that that humanitarian assistance reaches all Syrians in need. We are also aware of the depth and breadth of humanitarian need across Syria and the complex challenge they present to lifesaving – and life sustaining - humanitarian operations.
We must do everything in our power to support these operations, both through provision of funding, and by ensuring that humanitarian actors can carry out their work, utilising all necessary modalities, and with the necessary support. All parties must allow rapid, safe and unimpeded access - humanitarian access - to all people in need, wherever they are located, in line with humanitarian principles of independence, impartiality and neutrality
We offer deep condolences to the family of the humanitarian health worker killed last week in al Bab city. At least 14 humanitarian workers have been killed in Syria in the last 14 months.
We are deeply troubled by ongoing violence across Syria which continues to cause deaths and injuries, and we condemn all violence against civilians. The latest toll we have for December to January counts 67 people who have lost their lives, among them 17 children. We call on all parties to enter into a nationwide ceasefire, in line with Resolution 2254.
Shelling and violence in the North East(Ain Issa) has forced three thousand people to leave their homes, all the while lifesaving humanitarian deliveries have been delayed due to bureaucratic impediments.
We are very concerned about the deteriorating security situation at the Al Hol camp as reported by the Secretary General this month, where 23 people are reported to have been killed since January 1st. This situation is particularly worrying given that over half of the residents in the camp are under age 12.
In the strongest terms we remind all parties of their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law, with regards to the protection of civilians, and we re-iterate the call of the Secretary General for an immediate cessation of hostilities.
Let me close as I began, casting an eye over 10 years of conflict and looking to the future. We cannot not face another 10 years of human suffering driven by conflict. This Council has a responsibility to stand together in solidarity with those who find themselves without a voice.