LONDON: UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths has warned that a combination of factors, including low water levels in the Euphrates River, other water shortages and cholera outbreaks, has led to a crisis in Syria’s northeast that requires urgent intervention by humanitarian partners.
The warning came during a Security Council meeting on Wednesday to discuss the latest developments in the war-torn country. In addition to council members, representatives from Turkey and Iran were also present.
However, Griffiths stressed that the long-term goal of the council is to “drive down the need for assistance” by promoting “resilience-building efforts.”
This year, $4.4 billion is needed to adequately fund critical humanitarian projects in Syria, Griffiths said, warning that only a quarter of that target has been met and that “we may not reach half.”
He highlighted the importance of funding, noting that more than 4 million people in Syria had benefited from early recovery and resilience efforts, and added that the UN is “continuing to do the utmost” to expand cross-border aid convoys in an effort to bring urgent supplies into the country.
Deputy Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria Najat Rochdi told the council that “so much suffering for so many Syrians” has created a situation that requires urgent humanitarian aid and negotiations to address.
A long-term goal of humanitarian actors, including the UN, has been to secure a ceasefire and provide much-needed safety and security for Syrian civilians.
But warring parties are finding it difficult to compromise, Rochdi added, as she called for a “parallel process” to increase political stability.
The conflict is continuing, as a result of which civilians are being “killed, maimed, detained, displaced, and unable to return home,” she said, warning of a recent escalation of violence in the country, including rocket and artillery exchanges, as well as air and drone strikes.
Recent reports of Israeli airstrikes on Aleppo airport have also raised concerns after it emerged that aid delivered by the UN Humanitarian Air Service to Al-Hol refugee camp had been disrupted as a result of damage to infrastructure.
Another long-term concern of humanitarian and civil society groups has been the continued use of arbitrary detention and imprisonment by the Syrian regime, with “tens of thousands” of the country’s citizens remaining in jails.
Rochdi called for the creation of an international body to address the issue of missing Syrians and to tackle civil society, family and women’s issues.
She stressed the suffering of women in Syria, warning that they carry a “special burden” because of the conflict. Any resolution must place a special emphasis on women’s issues and should grant women an active role, with many left “holding families and communities together” while being unable to secure employment as a result of the country’s economic woes.
Rochdi’s appeal was echoed by Mazen Darwish, general director of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, who said that human rights violations by the regime continue to present a major obstacle to peace, with Syrian refugees around the world unable to return home.
Darwish said most Syrians are “dreaming of the day” when a political settlement is reached but added: “My return would only give the executioners a second chance to kill me.”
He compared the situation in the country to that of the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, asking why the UN had pursued former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on criminal grounds but was failing to do the same with members of the Syrian regime.
Any peace settlement “must be based on transitional justice,” he said, adding: “The only virtue in war is the end of the war.”