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Syria: Prevent ‘entire generation from being lost’, urges UN humanitarian chief

Concluding a seven-day visit to Syria, Lebanon and Turkey – his first official mission in the region since assuming the function of UN Emergency Relief Coordinator – Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths stressed that “the UN needs to be able to reach people who depend on its aid both from Turkey and from within Syria”.

“Humanitarians and donors must keep Syria high on our collective agenda to prevent an entire generation being lost”, he underscored.

Expand humanitarian access

During meetings with the Syrian Foreign Minister and his deputy, Mr. Griffiths emphasised the need to expand humanitarian access, protect civilians and help Syrians envision a future for themselves.

His visit coincided with the first humanitarian cross-line operation into north-west Syria since 2017, which he welcomed as an important step to reaching more people in need with critical assistance.

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Supporting Lebanon

Travelling to Damascus via the UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), Mr. Griffiths held constructive meetings with senior government officials and the humanitarian community, including the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and Red Crescent Societies, among others.

And in Beirut, he spoke with donors and discussed with the Deputy Prime Minister and Humanitarian Country Team, the country’s fast-growing needs, including a severe fuel crisis that jeopardizes health care and safe drinking water.

During his visit, the humanitarian chief announced a $4 million allocation from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to support an increased supply of fuel for the continued operation of essential services.

Meanwhile, the UN and its partners have developed the 2021-2022 Emergency Response Plan for Lebanon to provide life-saving humanitarian support to 1.1 million of the most vulnerable Lebanese people and migrants affected by the ongoing crisis.

The $378.5 million humanitarian plan complements the UN’s programmes for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) and the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan, which also includes Syrian refugees and the communities hosting them.

Cross-border operations

On the last leg of his trip, Mr. Griffiths travelled to Turkey where he met with the Presidential Spokesperson, Deputy Foreign Minister and others.

In the province of Hatay, on the Turkey-Syria border, he visited a humanitarian trans-shipment hub to observe UN cross-border operations into Syria, where each month the Organization dispatches 1,000 trucks of food, medicine and other life-saving aid to millions in desperate need, cut off by hostilities.

Stopping in Gaziantep, the westernmost part of the Anatolia Region, he engaged with Syrian refugees and host communities, while in Aleppo he visited projects supported by the UN’s Syria Humanitarian Fund and spoke with Syrians about the profound effects of more than ten years of conflict.

“I met people in Aleppo whose lives had been totally upended by Syria’s long-running crisis”, said Mr. Griffiths.

As Syria’s economic decline continues to compound already staggering levels of impoverishment, the UN official listened as communities pleaded for support to restart their lives.

“All expressed the desire to feel safe, but in particular they asked for access to basic services: health care, water, electricity and fuel to keep warm in winter”, he said. “Children want to learn, and young adults want to work. They want support to forge their own dignified path to a better future”.

Missing the mark

So far, the UN and its partners have received only 27 per cent of the funding needed for its 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan for Syria, which seeks $4.2 billion.

And the $5.8 billion Regional Refugee & Resilience Plan aims to help over 5.5 million Syrian refugees and host communities in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey is only 19 per cent funded.

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