Ahead of the UN Security Council meeting on Syria, UNICEF renews its call for safe and unconditional humanitarian access to reach children in need wherever they are
Reports of 55,000 children cut off from humanitarian assistance in Quneitra, south of Syria
Attributable to Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director in the Middle East and North Africa
AMMAN/ Hong Kong, 20 July 2018– “Up to 180,000 people are estimated to have fled the recent wave of violence in southern Syria. UNICEF estimates that half of them are children. According to reports, many of these children and their families continue to be cut off from basic lifesaving humanitarian assistance.
“Over the past years, humanitarian access has been severely restricted, conditional and at times completely denied in Syria. As a result, many children’s lives were lost unnecessarily. Sixteen-year-old Ali died of severe malnutrition when access to his hometown was denied. Just one of many children who lost their lives over the past 7 and a half years.
“Many lives in Syria could have easily been saved if humanitarian assistance was delivered in a timely manner and without conditions.
“Humanitarian access is about saving lives: lives of boys and girls, lives of innocent women and men. It is a humanitarian imperative and is not a matter for negotiations. The denial of humanitarian access to children is one of the six grave child rights violations as prioritised by the UN Security Council. Parties to the conflict who deliberately and arbitrarily deny humanitarian access will be held accountable.
“Humanitarian access was also severely restricted for years to two besieged villages in Idlib. We welcome reports that children and families from these villages were finally able to leave to safer locations, following nearly three years of siege.
“Despite challenges, humanitarian workers continue to provide critical lifesaving assistance to the most vulnerable in Syria. Continuous reports of attacks on humanitarian workers are extremely worrying. They are not a target, and must be protected at all times.
“Across Syria, there are 6 million children in need of assistance. On behalf of all of them, UNICEF is calling for timely, sustained, safe, unconditional and unimpeded access to reach all children in need wherever they are in Syria. Access is paramount not only to deliver assistance but also to provide on-site medical care, screen children for protection, health and psychosocial needs, as well as conduct humanitarian assessments.
“UNICEF calls on all members of the Security Council to continue putting pressure on parties to the conflict. Allow humanitarians and humanitarian organisations to do their work in Syria, protected and without conditions. Allow humanitarian teams to assist children in need wherever they are and regardless of who controls the area they live in. Surely this is not too much to ask, is it?”