New York: In a briefing to the UN Security Council on the humanitarian situation in Syria, two senior relief officials of the world body have warned that as the conflict enters its fifth year, the violence and brutality continue unabated and with total impunity.
Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Kang Kyung-Wha, told the 15-member body on Thursday that parties to the conflict continued to kill civilians and target critical infrastructure which condemn people to unnecessary suffering.
Kang delivered the remarks on behalf of Under Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valery Amos. Joining Kang was Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
"Every month we report on the same violations. The numbers change, but the pattern remains the same. The parties to the conflict continue to act with impunity: killing and abducting civilians; denying access; removing vital supplies from convoys. This pattern must be broken," Kang stressed.
Over two million people in Aleppo and Dar`a governorates have been affected by willful denial of water and electricity by parties to the conflict this month. Of the 212,000 people who are besieged in conditions that deteriorate every day, only 304 were reached with food in January.
In other areas where conditions deteriorate every day, parties to the conflict severely restrict access to those in need. In Raqqa and Deir ez Zor, the Islamic State (IS) has closed down the offices of several aid organisations, including the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.
"Some 600,000 people have not received food assistance in these governorates since last December. The sick or wounded often have nowhere safe to get treatment," said Kang.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has succeeded in sending life-saving medicine and medical supplies from Damascus to rural Aleppo for some 65,000 treatments but many of the surgical items including midwifery and reproductive kits were removed by government security personnel at one of the checkpoints.
Humanitarian organisations operating in besieged Syria and in neighbouring countries continue to reach millions of people every month. In January, some 3.4 million people were reached with food assistance while hundreds of thousands were also reached with medicines, household items and other supplies.
"But it is not enough. More effort must be made to de-escalate the violence, protect and enable humanitarian organisations to give more support," the special coordinator said.
Kang said she was extremely concerned that two UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) staff have been asked to leave the country without any reason given.
Lack of funding has already forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to reduce rations by 30 percent. For every million dollars that WHO cannot raise in Syria, some 227,000 people lose vital health services. And unless urgent funding is received before May 2015, a million children will not be able to access education.
Kang said she looked forward to the next pledging conference to be held March 31 in Kuwait, expressing hope that the funds acquired there will make a difference on the ground.
Echoing that sentiment, UNHCR head Antonio Guterres, said that the Kuwait III conference would play a determining role in stabilising the situation in the refugee hosting countries because international support has been far from keeping pace with the magnitude of needs.