UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said that all delivery channels for humanitarian aid in Syria should be kept available.
The humanitarian situation in Syria remains dire. Needs are at their highest since the start of the war more than 11 years ago. The world’s largest refugee crisis continues to impact the region and the world, Guterres told the Security Council on Monday.
Nearly 14.6 million people need humanitarian assistance. Twelve million people are food insecure. Ninety per cent of the population live below the poverty line. Infrastructure is crumbling. Economic activity halved during a decade of conflict, regional financial crises, sanctions, and the Covid-19 pandemic, he added.
Needs in northwest Syria continue to increase. Nearly 2.8 million people, mostly women and children, are displaced. Many live in camps or informal settlements. More than 90 per cent of people in the northwest need aid, Guterres said.
He added that the massive humanitarian response the UN and its partners are conducting in Syria has staved off the worst. But more is required, Xinhua news agency reported.
“That is why I have consistently stated the importance of maintaining and expanding access, including through cross-line and cross-border operations. When it comes to delivering life-saving aid to people in need across Syria, all channels should be made, and kept, available.”
Despite the incredibly challenging operating environment, the UN has delivered aid across the front lines into the northwest. Five cross-line convoys have now provided life-saving assistance to tens of thousands of people in need. The UN has also taken full advantage of the cross-border authorisation to save lives. Hundreds of trucks now cross from Turkey every month. Since cross-border aid was authorised in 2014, over 50,000 trucks have crossed into Syria to provide assistance to those in need, said Guterres.
“The United Nations cross-border operation into Syria is one of the most heavily scrutinised and monitored aid operations in the world. There is no doubt that our aid is reaching the people in need. While increasing cross-line assistance was an important achievement, in the present circumstances, it is not at the scale needed to replace the massive cross-border response,” he added.
He urged the members of the Security Council to maintain consensus on allowing cross-border operations by renewing the authorisation for an additional 12 months.
Together, the international community has helped avoid a total collapse in Syria. But the only way to end the humanitarian tragedy in Syria is through a truly nationwide cease-fire and a political solution that enables the Syrian people to determine their own future. The international community must do all that is necessary to reach a negotiated political solution, the UN chief said.