Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths warned that Syria is caught in a downward spiral and that the country will continue to be a place of tragedy so long as the conflict continues.
Meanwhile, US representative Jeffrey DeLaurentis called on Russia and the Bashar Assad regime to stop politicizing cross-border aid as a bargaining tactic against Syrians who object to their government’s policies. Instead, he demanded the Council to reauthorize the use of the Bab al-Salaam and Al Yarubiyah crossings.
DeLaurentis’ statements came as Griffiths briefed last Wednesday the Security Council on the humanitarian situation in Syria, following his return last week from the first visit to Syria, Lebanon and Turkey, in his new capacity.
The UN official’s trip offered an opportunity for candid and constructive discussions, including in Damascus with Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad and his Deputy, Bashar al-Jaafari, and in Ankara with several Turkish officials.
In Damascus, Griffiths said his visit coincided with continued tensions in southern Syria, particularly around the neighborhood of Daraa Al-Balad.
“I discussed these issues with the Syrian authorities and others, and the need for the protection of civilians, the need for humanitarian access and the well-being of over 36,000 people displaced in recent hostilities,” he said.
The official stressed that humanitarian needs in Syria are greater than they have ever been, with an estimated 13.4 million people across the country requiring humanitarian assistance. “This is a 21 per cent increase compared to the year before and the highest since 2017,” he said.
Griffiths also told the Security Council that after speaking with women, men and children about the profound effects of more than ten years of conflict, children asked for help to learn, to receive health care, and for fuel to survive the upcoming winter.
“Women-headed households spoke of the challenges they have in finding income, almost none of them having such income available, as well as for their families to survive,” he said.
Despite noting that donors remain generous in their support for the Syria Humanitarian Response Plan – which is, at $4.2 billion a year, the largest and most expensive plan worldwide, Griffiths said funding is not keeping pace with the growing needs of Syrians. This is a fundamental and objective reality.
At the same session, Amany Qaddour, Regional Director of Syria Relief and Development, also briefed the Council, saying that with many Syrians living in crowded camps and other temporary settlements, security risks --- including rape and other acts of violence --- have grown exponentially. She spotlighted the recruitment of children as young as 10 into hard labor, as well as an increase in suicides amid an atmosphere that is "palpable with hopelessness and despair".
During his intervention, Syria’s representative Bassam Sabbagh particularly lashed out at Turkey, accusing Ankara of obstructing the safe passage of a cross-line convoy to Sarmad.
Meanwhile, French representative Nicolas De Riviere said an immediate cessation of hostilities, as well as a humanitarian pause, are the immediate priorities in Syria, and civilians and civilian infrastructure must be protected.