Syria’s Humanitarian Crisis Worsening, Aid Groups Warn

Three UN Security Council resolutions calling for action to protect and provide assistance to civilians in Syria have failed to alleviate the suffering of people in that war-torn country, a report from twenty-one international aid agencies charges.

The report, Failing Syria: Assessing the Impact of UN Security Council Resolutions in Protecting and Assisting Civilians in Syria (30 pages, PDF), found that access to humanitarian aid in the country worsened in 2014, with 4.8 million people — some 2.3 million more than in 2013 — living in areas defined by the United Nations as "hard to reach." And with fewer than half the requests to run interagency humanitarian convoys accepted by the Syrian government in 2014, such convoys reached only 1.1 million people, compared with 2.9 million in 2013. While some aid has made it into the country from neighboring countries, only five of Syria's thirty-four border crossings are open for humanitarian assistance, with nine restricted and the rest closed.

The report also noted that 76,000 people were reported killed in 2014 — bringing the total for the last four years to at least 220,000 — while 5.6 million children were in need of aid, up 31 percent from 2013. According to the report, funding for humanitarian assistance has fallen even as need has grown, with only 57 percent of the funds needed to support Syrian civilians and refugees in neighboring countries provided in 2014, compared to 71 percent in 2013. The report gives the Security Council an "F" for its implementation of UNSCR 2139, 2165, and 2191 in each of four categories — "protection of civilians," "humanitarian access and besieged communities," "international contributions to the humanitarian response," and "political developments."

"The bitter reality is that the Security Council has failed to implement its resolutions," said Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council and former UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs. "Last year was the darkest year yet in this horrific war. Parties to the conflict have acted with impunity and ignored the Security Council's demands, civilians are not protected, and their access to relief has not improved."

The signatories to the report, which include the American Friends Service Committee, International Rescue Committee, Oxfam, Save the Children, and World Vision International, are members of the #WithSyria coalition that last week released an analysis of satellite images which showed that the number of lights visible at night in Syria has fallen 83 percent since the conflict began.

"What good is a resolution to a mother whose house has been bombed and children are hungry if it is ignored and undermined?" said Andy Baker, who heads the Syria crisis response at one of the signatory organizations. "It is time for powerful governments to stop fuelling the conflict, significantly scale up humanitarian assistance to meet people’s immediate needs, and push the warring parties towards a political solution."