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8081st Meeting (PM)

Barriers to ‘Lifeline’ Cross‑Border Aid Deliveries into Besieged Parts of Syria Continue, Humanitarian Affairs Chief Tells Security Council

Despite progress in the de‑escalation of fighting in certain parts of Syria, civilian suffering, as well as impediments to aid delivery, continued, the United Nations top humanitarian official told the Security Council this afternoon, stressing it was crucial to ensure that cross-border delivery of aid was maintained.

“Cross-border assistance provided for in Security Council resolution 2165 (2014) has been a lifeline,” said Mark Lowcock, Under‑Secretary‑General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, as he updated the 15‑member Council by teleconference from Amman, Jordan, in the latest of the monthly briefings on humanitarian access in Syria required under resolution 2139 (2014).

Since United Nations cross-border operations began in July 2014, Mr. Lowcock said, millions of people had been reached by more than 16,400 trucks carrying aid to northern and southern parts of Syria.  “It would be impossible for us to reach those people in a sustained manner from within Syria,” he added.

It was much more difficult to bring aid across factional lines, he added.  The hoped-for improvement due to de‑escalation had yet to materialize.  Since the beginning of the year, less than a quarter of the inter‑agency cross‑line convoys requested under the monthly and bi-monthly plans had been able to proceed.  On average, only 10 per cent of people in besieged locations were reached with United Nations assistance each month.

Nearly three million people in Syria, he said, continued to live in those besieged and hard-to-reach areas.  Delivery to the estimated 50,000 Syrians stranded in the desert along the Jordanian border in Rukban had been particularly difficult.  He called for an urgent solution to prevent a new disaster.

In eastern Ghouta — one of the four de‑escalated areas where 95 per cent of Syria’s besieged operations lived — daily shelling continued to be reported and humanitarian access had been severely curtailed for months.

In the country as a whole, he said, more than 13 million people still required humanitarian assistance.  In September alone, the World Food Programme (WFP) provided food assistance to over 3.3 million people, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reached over 1.5 million and the World Health Organization (WHO) reached over 800,000.

The United Nations and non‑governmental organizations had reached an average of well over 4 million people in Government‑controlled areas from January to August, representing the vast majority of humanitarian work in that period.

Long‑term displacement had decreased with the return home of some of the temporarily-displaced, but new displacement continued, with some 1.8 million people reported to have fled between January and September 2017. 

Particularly concerning, he said, was the situation in Raqqa city, where return was highly dangerous due to unexploded ordnances.  Large‑scale displacement continued further to the east of Raqqa, in Deir Ez‑Zor governorate.  Air strikes in that area had rendered hospitals and medical clinics inoperable, hampering efforts to check the recent polio outbreak. 

In addition, it was reported that in Homs governorate over 100 people had been executed by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), having been accused of collaboration with the Government, he said.

After Mr. Lowcock’s presentation, Luis Bermudez (Uruguay) paid tribute to the thousands of humanitarian workers in Syria.  Emphasizing the need for unhindered aid access, he called on countries to use all their influence to ensure that no blockages exist and that related Security Council resolutions were scrupulously complied with.  Any attacks on hospitals and other such facilities should be prosecuted as war crimes.  The 350,000 civilians under siege in Ghouta must receive relief, he insisted, while efforts to end the fighting must progress.

Sacha Sergio Llorentty Solíz (Bolivia) also called for greater efforts to reduce suffering in Syria including unimpeded aid access.  Welcoming talks both in Geneva and Asana, as well as efforts to create further de‑escalation zones, he also stressed the need to respect the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  He called for compliance with all Security Resolutions and agreements reached in the latest talks.

The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 3:30 p.m.

For information media. Not an official record.