Statement on Behalf of the Office of the UN Special Envoy for Syria Following the International Syria Support Group Humanitarian Task Force Meeting in Geneva

22 Feb 2023

Statement on Behalf of the Office of the UN Special Envoy for Syria Following the International Syria Support Group Humanitarian Task Force Meeting in Geneva

United Nations Deputy Special Envoy for Syria Ms. Najat Rochdi convened the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) Humanitarian Task Force (HTF) in Geneva today.

This is the second HTF meeting since the devastating 6 February earthquake affected Syria and came two days after a second series of earthquakes and aftershocks. The meeting focused on the needs and key asks to facilitate humanitarian assistance to all affected areas as well as on quick disbursement of funding in response to the Flash Appeal.

At the outset of the meeting, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Mr. Geir O. Pedersen briefed HTF members on his recent visit to the region in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Deputy Special Envoy Ms. Rochdi noted that in Syria at least 8.8 million people have been affected by the earthquake, with the majority of those expected to need some form of humanitarian assistance. Many more Syrians in Turkiye are also heavily impacted. Syrians have lost loved ones, homes, shelters, sustenance, services and more. The Deputy Special Envoy recalled that the earthquake struck when needs in Syria were already at an all-time high.

The Deputy Special Envoy reiterated that there must not be a politicisation of response or of aid. She stressed that parties with influence must work to ensure that humanitarian assistance can travel through all routes and all modalities. In this context, Deputy Special Envoy Rochdi welcomed the rapid resumption and scaling up of the cross-border operations, including through additional border crossings of Bab Al-Salam and Al-Ra’ee. She also called for the resumption and increase of crossline operations into northwest Syria following the blanket approval by the Government of Syria until July. She called on concerned parties and those with influence to work to secure the necessary approvals and security guarantees without delay. She also stressed that there also must be simplified, expedited procedures for humanitarian staff movement, without restrictions, into northwest Syria to continue to address the needs.

Taking note of additional humanitarian exemptions announced by key donors in response to the earthquake, Deputy Special Envoy Rochdi urged donor countries to ensure that all relevant humanitarian exemptions for sanctions, which could interfere with the humanitarian response, be fully utilised.

The UN humanitarian leadership in Syria and the UN regional hubs in Turkiye and Amman briefed HTF members on the UN response across the country. In all affected areas, UN efforts are being accelerated to deal with the immense needs. The UN is providing emergency relief including food, nutrition and drinking water, medical supplies, thermal blankets, tents, warm clothes, and other non-food items. Immediate and ongoing priorities include winterisation and shelter support, health needs, including medical supplies, ambulances and medicine, water, sanitation, food, nutrition, protection, and cash assistance. Donors were urged to support humanitarian agencies and partners as they replenish their stocks.

Donors were urged to support the Flash Appeal for a rapid scale-up of the humanitarian response in areas most affected by the earthquake. Humanitarian partners require $397.6 million to help more than 4.9 million people in most acute need until May 2023.

Noting that the earthquake has created a crisis within a crisis, the Deputy Special Envoy concluded by calling for an end to all violence and a sustained calm in Syria to enable humanitarian assistance to be delivered in all areas of Syria and to all Syrians and to give all Syrians a respite at this tragic time. She expressed the UN’s readiness to work with all parties to the conflict to further address the needs of all Syrians. Ms. Rochdi stressed that life-saving and humanitarian assistance has never been more critical for the entire country, and HTF members were urged to do everything they can to alleviate the suffering of all Syrians wherever they are.