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Women and children have been the worst victims of the Syrian war. Women and children have been the worst victims of the Syrian war.   (AFP or licensors)

UN chief calls for immediate cease-fire in Syria

UN Secretary-General António Guterres says the man-made humanitarian nightmare of the Syrian people must stop now.

By Robin Gomes

The United Nations on Friday chief called for an immediate end to the “man-made humanitarian nightmare” currently unfolding in the northwest Syrian province of Idlib, where ongoing military operations in the north-west have displaced hundreds of thousands amid freezing winter temperatures.

No military solution

“The message is clear. There is no military solution for the Syrian crisis,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres told journalists at the UN Headquarters in New York.  “The only possible solution remains political. This manmade humanitarian nightmare for the long-suffering Syrian people must stop. It must stop now”.

Since December, nearly 900,000 people, have fled fighting in Idlib, where the Syrian government has launched a military assault in the last major stronghold of the rebel fighters and jihadists opposed to President Bashar al-Assad.

Women and children

The vast majority of those fleeing the latest Syrian offensive are women and children.  Many young children who are freezing to death, Guterres said.   Most are moving to increasingly crowded areas towards the border with Turkey.  

He said, “the unfolding crisis in northwest Syria and the terrible human toll on civilians” is now advancing into areas with the highest concentrations of people - many of them displaced - “and threatening to strangle humanitarian lifelines.” 

 “I have repeatedly called for an immediate ceasefire in Idlib to end the humanitarian catastrophe and now also to avoid an uncontrollable escalation,” Guterres said. 

Appeal to donors

Overall, nearly three million people in north-west Syria require humanitarian assistance.  As needs rise, the UN is revising plans to assist the displaced, the UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA, said earlier on Friday.    

Guterres said earlier this month the UN thought it needed enough funds to reach 800,000 displaced people. However, he said the UN is now appealing for an additional $500 million from donors “to cover the needs of the newly displaced people over the next six months.”

22 February 2020, 16:44