Almost seven million people need humanitarian assistance in Syria as a result of the two-year civil war there, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Ann Amos said on Thursday.
She explained that “the needs are growing rapidly and are most severe in the conflict and opposition-controlled areas” of Syria.
She cited data showing there are 6.8 million people in need—out of a rapidly shrinking population of 20.8 million—as well as an estimated 4.25 million people who have been internally displaced and an additional 1.3 million refugees who fled to neighboring countries.
The 15-member Security Council then urged both sides in the conflict “to ensure safe and unimpeded access for aid organizations to those in need in all areas of Syria.”
In the statement the council also deplored “the obstacles to the provision of humanitarian assistance and underlined the urgent need to remove all such obstacles, including those which are bureaucratic in nature.”
Under-Secretary-General Amos said that bureaucratic obstacles have grown since January, “inhibiting our ability to respond.” She added: “The limitations on the ground have forced us to being precariously close to suspending some critical humanitarian operations. We are approaching a point of no return.”
So the council statement also requested that shipments of food and medicine be allowed to cross borders if necessary, and called on all sides to “protect civilians and respect international human rights and humanitarian law, recalling the primary responsibility of the Syrian authorities in this regard.”
OK, so now we’re good, let’s go have a nice pizza…
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, addressing the UN Security Council by video link, said the number of refugees could surpass 3.5 million by the end of the year.
“These figures are terrifying. This is not just frightening, it risks becoming simply unsustainable,” he said, calling for more international support for countries hosting refugees, including Lebanon and Jordan.
Amos told the council that the number of approved non-governmental organizations in Syria was recently cut from 110 to 29, and the UN has just been told that every truck needs a permit signed by two ministers to pass government checkpoints.
“When I tell the council that a convoy from Damascus to Aleppo goes through 50 checkpoints—half of them government controlled—you will appreciate the impossibility of this request.”
In some ways it’s actually gratifying to observe how the UN Security Council is dealing with a situation that technically mirrors the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—except that both sides are crazy violent lunatics, making even the Hamas and the PLO look relatively civilized in comparison—and is just as paralyzed and totally unable to help anyone do anything right.
“We cannot do business this way,” Amos said. She’s so right.