Syria’s Idlib ‘on the brink’ of a nightmare, humanitarian chiefs warn, launching global solidarity campaign
#SyriaHumanitarianTaskforcemeetinginGeneva; ##TheWorldIsWatching; #OCHA
New York, Jun 27 (Canadian-Media/UN): The heads of 11 global humanitarian organizations warned on Thursday that the embattled rebel-held province of Idlib in Syria, stands on the brink of disaster, with three million civilian lives at risk, including one million children, United Nations (UN) media reports said.
Kafr Nubl surgical hospital is seen after it was put out of service by attacks in early May 2019. The building and an ambulance lie in ruins. (3 May 2019) Image Credit UNICEF/Khalil Ashawi
In a direct video address to launch a worldwide campaign in solidarity with civilians trapped there, dubbed #TheWorldIsWatching, the humanitarian leaders said that they face the constant threat of violence. “Too many have died already” and “even wars have laws” they declared, in the face of multiple attacks by Government forces and their allies on hospitals, schools and markets, together with fierce resistance from extremist fighters that have gained control of much of the territory.
“Idlib is on the brink of a humanitarian nightmare unlike anything we have seen this century”, they warn.
UN relief chief and Humanitarian Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, said that “our worst fears are materializing…Yet again innocent civilians are paying the price for the political failure to stop the violence and do what is demanded under international law – to protect all civilians.
A huge influx of civilians - many displaced by fighting during urban offensives in places such as Aleppo and eastern Ghouta – has seen the northwestern Governorate double in population since 2015.
At least 330,000 have been forced to seek shelter elsewhere within the region, during the huge uptick in violence of the past two months. Many of them have nowhere left to run.
“Our campaign expresses solidarity with the families under attack and tells everyone that we are watching and witnessing what is happening”, said OCHA chief Lowcock.
Universal principles and values must prevail’: Rochdi
With more than 300 civilians have been killed in the so-called de-escalation area in northwestern Syria since the latest Government offensive, including many women and children, said the Senior Humanitarian Adviser on Syria, Najat Rochdi.
During a Syria Humanitarian Taskforce meeting in Geneva on Thursday, she noted the ambulance that had been hit by aerial bombardment just last week, and the death of three medical workers, who had been attempting to rescue a female patient who also died, while they were trying to reach a local hospital.
“Everything needs to be done to protect civilians”, she said. “Universal principles and values must prevail when so many innocent lives are at stake.”
In Rukban camp on the Jordanian border, she said around 27,000 displaced civilians still lacked the most basic services, in dire need of assistance. “We continue to call for humanitarian access to Rukban to be able to deliver life-saving aid and to assist those who would like to leave”, she added.
UN envoy urges Russia and Turkey to ‘stablize’ Idlib
The UN Special Envoy for Syria, on Thursday urged the Security Council to “work at the highest level to stabilize the situation in Idleb” as the guarantors of the de-confliction zone in and around Idlib, set up last September.
Gier Pedersen told the Council that both countries “have reassured me that they remain committed” to the Memorandum of Understanding and had set up a working group.
“We must see this assurance reflected on the ground” said the Envoy, adding that he hoped Syria would be a main item for discussion at this weekend’s G20 Summit of nations, taking place in Japan.
“We hope that Russia and the United States can build on recent talks and deepen their dialogue at the highest level too”, he said, noting that five international armies were still present in war-torn Syria, making the need for a nationwide ceasefire critical.
Mr. Pedersen also highlighted the “significant presence” of terrorist group, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham inside the de-escalation area as another major drawback: “Its attacks must cease. But all due protection must be afforded to the up to three million civilians in Idlib.
“Undoubtedly, there is no easy solution for Idlib. But the only way to find one, is for hostilities to stop, and for key stakeholders to engage in a cooperative approach towards countering terrorism – an approach that safeguards the protection of civilians.”
UNICEF ramps up humanitarian assistance to children in Venezuela, delivers 55 tons of health supplies since January
NEW YORK, Jun 7 (Canadian-Media/UN): – Fifty-five tons of UNICEF health supplies have reached Venezuela since the beginning of the year, the United Nations children’s organization (UNICEF) said today. The items were distributed in 25 hospitals in the most affected states of Caracas, Miranda, Zulia, Bolivar and Táchira. They include midwifery kits, antibiotics and malaria treatment.
“One-third of children in Venezuela need help accessing basic nutrition, health and education services, according to preliminary UN estimates,” said Paloma Escudero, UNICEF Director of Communication, who has just finished a three-day trip to the country. “UNICEF has been working in Venezuela for almost 30 years. As the country grapples with the impact of a devastating economic and political crisis, we will continue to provide its most vulnerable children, wherever they are, with the humanitarian support they need. Children’s needs must always remain above politics.”
UNICEF is concerned that the current situation in Venezuela has reduced children’s access to essential services and increased their vulnerability, rolling back decades of progress. According to United Nations estimates based on official and other sources:
At a health care center in the outskirts of Caracas, Escudero met with health workers and mothers who spoke of the daily challenges of giving, and receiving, medical care.
“People I spoke to painted a very grim picture of the health situation in the country,” Escudero said. “Many doctors and nurses have left the country. Medical centers are functioning at minimum capacity due to the shortage of medicine. Lack of spare parts has grounded mobile health units and ambulances. Pregnant women, many of them too young and anaemic, are struggling to get the care they need. With worsening fuel shortages, they are sometimes not even able to get to the health centers. Women in labour need to bring their own midwifery supplies when they check into the hospital. For a country that made remarkable progress for decades on the quality of its health care, this is quite dramatic.”
The recent shipments of heath supplies raise to nearly 200 tons UNICEF’s humanitarian assistance in the country in the past year. Working with partners on both sides of the political spectrum, UNICEF has, so far this year, provided:
“We are barely scratching the surface,” Escudero said. “Millions of children need to be immunized, go to school, drink safe water and feel protected. We have plans in place to further scale up our response, but we need increased flexible funding that would allow us to reach the children in need with the services they need.”
UNICEF has strengthened its presence on the ground, with offices close to the borders with Colombia and Brazil, making it one of the agencies with the biggest operational footprint in the country.
UNICEF’s funding requirements have increased, with plans to provide more vaccines, rehabilitate the water and sanitation system, provide malnutrition treatment and medical supplies, and make sure that children have the education and protection support that are essential to their future and well-being.
“We are committed to making sure that we reach children in need with quality support in a timely manner and we rely on our donors’ support while we continue to increase our response and strengthen our monitoring mechanisms on the ground,” Escudero said.