“I hope they will soon, because if not, it will be another missed opportunity to help the Syrian conflict to come to a negotiated end, at a time when the impact of the crisis is deepening,” Geir Pedersen said, briefing the Security Council.
While there had been positive humanitarian gestures following the devastating earthquakes in February, it was disappointing that the UN cross-border relief operations which provoked a Russian veto and a failure to agree any resolution two weeks ago, could not be extended, he told ambassadors.
“How are the Syrians meant to believe that some broader progress is possible, and how are they meant to be encouraged to overcome their own deep differences, if consensus on humanitarian basics among international parties is elusive?”
Five foreign armies
“Syria remains territorially divided with Syrian society too divided on many issues”, Mr. Pedersen said, informing of the presence of five foreign armies within the country.
“This month saw airstrikes attributed to Israel, reports of Turkish drone strikes, reports of pro-Government airstrikes north of Aleppo, and the US saying it carried out drone strikes on an ISIL leader near al-Bab.”
Civilians continue to be injured and killed, amid violent clashes, regular exchanges of mortar, rocket and artillery fire across northeast and northwest Syria, he added.
Plea to work proactively
Mr. Pedersen called on the Syrian Government to work proactively with the UN on a political path out of the conflict, and also highlighted the need for “constructive and coordinated international diplomacy”.
“The more you can work together despite your differences, the more you can encourage and support the Syrians to do the same,” he urged the 15-member Council.
Conditions getting worse
Ramesh Rajasingham, Director of Coordination for UN aid coordination wing OCHA, informed ambassadors of the letter his office had received from the Syrian Government granting the UN permission to use the Bab al-Hawa crossing to deliver assistance in northwest.
He said humanitarians continue to engage with the Government on the terms outlined in the letter and the essential requirements OCHA has to keep operating, guided by the humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence.
Throughout Syria, he continued, conditions continue to deteriorate, with the price of essential food commodities surging by over 90 per cent in 2023, putting basic food items and other essentials, out of the reach of millions of families.
Assistance to up to 40 percent of them, or 2.5 million people, have been discontinued this month due to funding shortfalls
– Ramesh Rajasingham, OCHA
Across the country, almost 12 million people – more than half the population – do not have enough to eat and a further 2.9 million are at risk of sliding into hunger.
In the country’s northwest, extreme heat is putting lives at risk with more than 40 fires reported from the period between 15 to 17 July alone.
“Despite these severe vulnerabilities, the 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan for Syria is only 12.4 per cent funded,” he added, warning that in the absence of urgent funding, humanitarians will have to make “difficult choices again this year”.
“To give you an example of what this means in practice: beneficiaries of food assistance are currently receiving only 50 per cent of the standard ration size. In addition, assistance to up to 40 percent of them – or 2.5 million people – have been discontinued this month due to funding shortfalls,” the UN relief official warned.