“It is a tragic irony that this period of relative calm, compared to the early years of the conflict, is also a period of immense and growing humanitarian suffering of the Syrian people,” Geir O. Pedersen said in a videoconference.
To do list
In view of a political solution facilitated by the United Nations, led and controlled by Syria, supported by a “constructive” international diplomacy, the special envoy highlighted several necessary steps, starting with a national ceasefire and the need for shut down the terrorist groups listed on the Security Council.
He also stressed urgently addressing the “desperate” humanitarian situation, while stressing the importance of avoiding sanctions that exacerbate the plight of ordinary Syrians.
Mr. Pedersen saw the unilateral release of detainees and abductees as a “key priority” along with “meaningful action” to locate those who have disappeared.
Measures were needed to create a “safe, calm and neutral environment” conducive to the return home of refugees and internally displaced persons.
Another goal was the significant participation of Syrian women and civil society in the political process.
Finally, Pedersen called international diplomacy “essential” to overcome the distrust of international participants and Syrian parties, as it can help develop “reciprocal and reciprocal steps” with parallel implementation and verification.
The special envoy noted that a presidential poll is taking place under the auspices of the current constitution.
He pointed out that this was not required in Security Council resolution 2254, which includes elections, in accordance with a new constitution, administered under the supervision of the United Nations with all Syrians, including the diaspora, eligible to participate.
“The UN is not involved in these elections”, he said, calling the implementation of resolution 2254 “the only sustainable path to end the conflict and suffering of the Syrian people”.
With no progress towards the advancement of Resolution 2254, with participants unwilling to take the first step towards resolving the conflict, Mr. Pedersen feared that Syria would become another protracted conflict, “lasting generations”.
“There are great dangers in not taking the opportunity that the current period offers us,” he said. “Syria needs serious attention to be able to build on this dynamic.”
Scarcity of water
United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock highlighted the humanitarian situation, starting with the main water shortages in the Northeast.
The reduced levels in the Euphrates have impacted nearly 5.5 million people who rely on it for drinking water, and the Tishreen Dam in northeastern Aleppo governorate, which stands at less than half the operating minimum, must face a complete shutdown.
Meanwhile, downstream from the ar-Raqqa governorate, water levels at the Tabqa emergency dam are now 80 percent depleted, according to the humanitarian coordinator.
Economic crisis in progress
Despite relative calm, the economic situation has improved little and Syrians seem to be heading for “an even deeper abyss”, the UN official noted.
He described historically high food prices that have left 40% of the population unable to afford nutritious food, with nearly half of Syrian families surveyed saying adults eat less so children can eat and that fuel shortages continue in all over the country.
© WFP / Jessica Lawson
He described the impact of the attack on one facility, Atareb Surgical Hospital in western Aleppo governorate, noting that it served more than 200 patients before the attack, which has now dropped to just 50.
One of the long-term consequences of the assaults on health facilities, he said, was that “these attacks frighten the civilian population”, discouraging them from seeking these services, “even though many are in dire need.”
And with 46 reported murders since January and continuing security concerns, Al-Hol, the country’s largest refugee and internally displaced camp, has seen more than 10,000 Syrian and non-Syrian citizens leave in the past two years.
“But more than 60,000 remain and live in unacceptable conditions,” Lowcock stressed, reminding the Council that “this is a camp for children,” mostly under the age of 12, and nearly 14,000 of just five.
“They deserve a future,” he stressed.
Since 2019, the United Nations has been unable to provide aid to Rukban, the remote area on the border with Syria, while the north-east of the country continues to lack essential health supplies as COVID cases have increased by 50. %.
A first batch of un-backed COVAX vaccines are expected to cover 9,000 health workers, but since the rest of the country needs vaccinations, it is “a drop in the ocean,” the humanitarian coordinator said.
Security Council clearance for UN cross-border assistance in the Northwest expires in just over six weeks. Without an extension, the monthly food deliveries for 1.4 million people, millions of medical treatments, nutritional assistance and educational supplies, will run out.
The UN relief chief told ambassadors that “the cross-border operation … a lifeline for more than 3 million people, cannot be replaced.”
“We are counting on this Council to ensure that that lifeline is not cut,” he concluded.