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Syria: Briefing on the Humanitarian Situation

Tomorrow (25 April), the Council will receive a briefing on Syria from Mark Lowcock, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs. Lowcock, who briefed the Council on 17 April, is expected to present the monthly report of the Secretary-General on the humanitarian situation in Syria which was circulated on 19 April (S/2018/369).

Council members returned yesterday from a retreat in Backåkra, Sweden, in which they discussed the situation in Syria with Secretary-General António Guterres and Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura. In press elements circulated after the retreat, they agreed on the need to fully implement resolution 2401 and to intensify efforts in this regard. (Resolution 2401 demanded a cessation of hostilities.) It remains to be seen whether that discussion may become the basis for a more constructive engagement by Council members. Although de Mistura was originally expected to brief the Council tomorrow, he will not participate given the fact that he briefed Council members during the retreat.

Lowcock’s briefing is expected to highlight the challenges to gaining humanitarian access. So far this month there have been no cross-line deliveries. The lack of safe, unimpeded and sustained humanitarian access has been an ongoing factor in the conflict. By imposing bureaucratic hurdles and removing critical items from convoys that did go through, the government has been able to limit humanitarian access to those areas that are not under its control. Access has also been limited in areas recently taken over by the government, as illustrated by the fact that the UN has not been able to reach Douma with life-saving assistance since 15 March. It has also not been given permission to carry out an inter-agency needs assessment in key locations in Eastern Ghouta.

The briefing is expected to underline the precarious situation of the civilians still in Eastern Ghouta, those in temporary overcrowded shelters and those who were evacuated to Idlib and Aleppo, as well as those who evacuated Afrin after the military operation carried out there by Turkey. The situation of Idlib, which has been receiving displaced civilians throughout the conflict, is expected to be a focus of the briefing. Earlier this morning in Brussels, de Mistura identified Idlib as a major new challenge given the density of the population there and the humanitarian impact that a military offensive would have.

Lowcock is also likely to mention the humanitarian situation in Raqqa, given the humanitarian impact of operations by the US-led coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, and Rukban, where some 50,000 civilians remain stranded near the border with Jordan. These aspects of the humanitarian situation in Syria were the object of a Council meeting at the request of Russia on 17 April.

Earlier today, on the occasion of an aid conference in Brussels on Syria and the region co-hosted by the UN and the EU, Lowcock emphasised in a statement the need to scale up funding to humanitarian assistance in Syria, whose appeal is currently less than 15 percent funded.

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