Air strikes on al-Bara town in Syria's Idlib province. Air strikes on al-Bara town in Syria's Idlib province.  

Stop carnage, flouting of rights, international law in Syria - UN chief

Ahead of the 9th anniversary of Syria’s devastating conflict on Sunday, March 15, UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres highlighted the urgent need for a peaceful solution to the crisis.

By Robin Gomes

“The conflict in Syria is entering its tenth year. A decade of fighting has brought nothing but ruin and misery.  And civilians are paying the gravest price. There is no military solution. Now it is the time to give diplomacy a chance to work", UN Secretary-General wrote in a post on his Twitter account on Thursday. 

What began as peaceful pro-democracy protests against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011, developed into a complicated conflict involving many parties, including world powers.  It has killed hundreds of thousands of people and made millions of refugees.

Turkey and Russia, which back opposing sides in Syria's war, agreed on March 5 to halt military activity in Idlib after an escalation of violence displaced nearly a million people and brought the two sides close to confrontation.

Humanitarian crisis of monumental proportions

Overall, more than 11 million people across Syria require aid relief, nearly half of them children, according to the latest estimates.

Fighting has displaced more than six million people inside Syria, sometimes repeatedly, while another five million Syrians are living as refugees beyond its borders.

“The brutal conflict has exacted an unconscionable human cost and caused a humanitarian crisis of monumental proportions,” Guterres said in a statement on Thursday.

"Millions of civilians continue to face protection risks...We have seen nine years of horrific atrocities, including war crimes. Nine years of human rights abuses on a massive and systematic scale, eroding international norms to new depths of cruelty and suffering.”

“Tens of thousands are missing, disappeared, detained, subjected to ill-treatment and torture. Untold numbers have been killed and injured. There must be no impunity for such horrific crimes,” the UN chief said.

“My message today is clear,” Guterres said. “We cannot allow the tenth year to result in the same carnage, the same flouting of human rights and international humanitarian law, the same inhumanity.”

The situation in Idlib governorate, in northwest Syria, remains an urgent concern for the humanitarian community.

Worst cases of healthcare hit by war

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that only half of the 550 health facilities in the region remain open nearly a decade after the war began.

Syria represents one of the worst cases of healthcare being affected by conflict, according to the UN’s health agency, with a total of 494 attacks recorded between 2016-2019, mainly in the northwest.

During that same period, 470 people were killed in attacks on health facilities.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis has been a leading voice among world leaders for an immediate end to the Syrian conflict and the suffering of its people.   In yet another heartfelt appeal on Sunday, the Holy Father particularly addressed the humanitarian crisis in Idlib. 

He reiterated his “great apprehension and pain for the inhumane situation of these defenceless people, among whom are many children whose lives are at risk”.  He urged the world not to look away from this humanitarian crisis, but to give it priority over all other interests.   

Funds to saves lives

The UN and its partners are seeking $3.3 billion for the humanitarian response in Syria this year.  They also will require an additional $5.2 billion to support Syrian refugees and host communities across the region.

Last year, humanitarian agencies reached over six million people each month throughout Syria.  If given the needed support, they hope to reach as many people as possible this year.

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13 March 2020, 15:47