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'Everyone is losing' in Syria's conflict: UN relief chief

The Syrian people continue to bear the brunt of the crisis [Getty]

Date of publication: 25 February, 2016

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Stephen O'Brien has called for an end to the Syrian conflict and an urgent approval of aid delivery as the Syrian people 'bear the brunt of the crisis'.

A top UN humanitarian official has echoed international calls for a more durable ceasefire in Syria, while the world body and the international community welcomed the recent announcement of a cessation of hostilities in Syria as a "long-awaited signal of hope".

Parties involved in the Syrian conflict were also urged to facilitate conditions for increased protection and humanitarian aid.

"Enough is enough. This brutality must come to an end," the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordination, Stephen O'Brien, told the UN Security Council on Wednesday.

"It is hard to believe that this conflict can be resolved as long as there continues to be a complete absence of protection of civilians," the UN official added.

"The agreement on cessation of hostilities must finally and unequivocally produce what this Council's resolutions and the basic tenets and obligations under international law could not achieve thus far: an immediate end to all targeted or indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, and enhanced protection of civilians."

O'Brien also lamented that next month will mark the "grim anniversary" of the conflict that has torn Syria apart for five years already.

"It has been a relentless period of violence and destruction," he said, adding that the Syrian people had seen loved ones killed or injured, and millions of people displaced.

"They have suffered far too much and for far too long," he added.

Humanitarian aid

As of 17 February, dozens of UN/Syrian Arab Red Crescent convoys had reached Madaya, Zabadani, and Foah and Kefraya, delivering aid to 61,000 people, while the second and last part of the deliveries have been tentatively planned for 28 February, according to O'Brien.

The aid deliveries come as part of agreements facilitated through discussions in Munich earlier in February, although the process "has not been straightforward", O'Brien noted.

"Humanitarian operations cannot continue to be bogged down by unnecessary and unacceptable restrictions, obstructions and deliberate delays that are costing people their lives," he explained.

Humanitarian operations cannot continue to be bogged down by unnecessary and unacceptable restrictions, obstructions and deliberate delays that are costing people their lives.
- Stephen O'Brien

"In order for people in dire need to receive the assistance they so desperately require, the system must be urgently simplified."

According to the UN official, the World Food Programme also contributed to aid deliveries by air-dropping its first cargo into Deir ez-Zour on Wednesday morning, though some of the parcels dropped were blown astray or may not have reached their intended targets, officials admitted.

In total this past month, the UN and its partners have reached millions of people in need with assistance through all available routes, O'Brien said, pledging to continue to "stay and deliver".

The UN relief chief also reiterated a call to the Syrian government to urgently approve more than 40 outstanding requests for inter-agency convoys to deliver assistance to hard-to-reach and besieged areas, calling upon non-state armed groups and listed terrorist organisations to also fulfil their obligations.

'Everyone is losing'

O'Brien pointed out that it was the Syrian people who continue to "bear the brunt of this crisis" as violence has become more widespread, systematic and extreme.

"In the Syrian conflict, there are no winners; everyone is losing. But the highest price is paid by Syrian men, women and children who are witnesses their country, their homes and their families being torn apart," he said, adding that the delivery of humanitarian assistance could only address the symptoms, not the root causes, of the problems here.

"The international community and the parties to the conflict must seize the momentum created around the nationwide cessation of hostilities to bring a political solution to the crisis," he added.

"I cannot stress enough that we must not let this opportunity pass. We cannot take away this glimmer of hope from the people that need it the most." 

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