UN aid Chief says Syrian crisis worst in the world

UN's top relief official urges political solution in Syria to end dire humanitarian situation and civilian suffering

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

The UN’s newly appointed humanitarian chief, Stephen O'Brien, has said in his first briefing to the UN Security Council that Syria is the “most acute, unrelenting and shameful blot on world’s humanitarian conscience.”

The top relief official said a political solution to the Syrian crisis is more urgent than ever to end the "gargantuan levels of suffering" in Syria.

"We must show the people of Syria that the world has not forgotten them or the plight of their country," O'Brien said.

"I urge the Security Council to consider its options through their eyes, the eyes of the beleaguered, now long-suffering Syrian people," he added. He also stressed the “tragic milestone” of the number of registered Syrian refugees, which reached 4 million in early July. This is the largest refugee population from a single conflict worldwide during the last quarter of a century

According to the UN, the four-year-long war in Syria has left more than 220,000 people dead and 6.7 million internally displaced, while at least 5 million have fled the country.

"I commend the neighboring countries who shoulder this extraordinary burden with remarkable generosity and hospitality, despite the destabilization it brings," he said.

"Syria today ... is the most acute, unrelenting and shameful blot on the world’s humanitarian conscience," he added.

O'Brien told reporters after the briefing that the implementation of a potential safe zone in northern Syria, which is being discussed by Turkey and the US, should not go forward unless the safety of civilians who are likely to flee to the area is guaranteed.

"What you don’t want to do is call something a safe zone, people flee to it, but it hasn’t got sufficient protection," he said.

The safe zone proposed by Turkey aims to provide a safe space to which the Syrian refugees in Turkey and other neighbouring countries can return.

The civil war in Syria started in 2011 following a brutal crackdown on anti-government demonstrations and later developed into a multi sided conflict between five main factions - the Syrian regime, opposition groups, the Al Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front, ISIS, and the Kurdish YPG militia.

A US-led coalition began launching air strikes in Syria and Iraq against ISIS targets last September.

Most civilians in Syria are suffering from a very bad humanitarian situation including shortage of water as well as weeks without electricity in both regime-held and opposition-held regions of the country. Several schools in opposition-held areas have been closed due to the spread of infectious diseases.

In the region of Ghouta near Syria’s capital Damascus which has been besieged for more than two years by regime troops the humanitarian conditions are extremely poor due to a lack of food, medicine and fuel.

Videos posted online by activists show the besieged people of Ghouta eating cat meat. Hundreds of children have died due to starvation in the region, according to reports by activists posted on social media.

The situation is little better in other besieged areas across the country, where children, women and old men are suffering due to little humanitarian aid reaching them and a lack of interest in their plight from the international community.

TRTWorld and agencies