Statement by the Permanent Mission of South Africa to the United Nations, during the United Nations Security Council Meeting on the Humanitarian situation in Syria, 27 August 2020

Thank you, Mr President,

I would like to thank Acting Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mr Ramesh Rajasingham, for his frank and insightful briefing on the humanitarian situation in Syria.

I also extend South Africa’s sincere gratitude and appreciation to the UN’s humanitarian agencies, partners and personnel for their tireless effort in ensuring that the people of Syria are provided with the essential assistance they so desperately require.

In this regard, we call on the international community to assist in this effort by contributing to the humanitarian programmes aimed at helping the Syrian people. I would also like to pay tribute to those humanitarian workers who have given their lives to assist the Syrian people.

Since the beginning of this year, 20 aid workers have been killed, making Syria the most insecure country for aid workers for the third year in a row, with national aid workers being the most affected. More must be done to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian aid workers.

Mr President,

As we have heard this morning, the humanitarian situation in Syria continues to be of concern, with Syrian civilians particularly children, many of whom have known nothing but conflict, continuing to endure the worst aspects of this dire situation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further significantly impacted the economic and humanitarian situations. The effect of over nine-years of conflict on critical infrastructure, including the health, education, water and sanitation sectors, have eroded Syria’s capacity to fully respond to this pandemic. The risk to refugees and internally displaced populations are of particular concern, given their cramped quarters and limited access to necessary water and sanitation services.

In this regard, the continued disruption of service at the Alouk water station is deeply troubling, as this water station is the primary source of clean water to over 460,000 people in the Al-Hasakeh Governorate, including the Al Hol camp. South Africa, therefore calls on the parties to ensure that water services are fully restored and a long-term, sustainable solution is found to ensure that shortages and disruptions no longer occur.

Additionally, South Africa calls on all parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law, for the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure, such as schools, health facilities, and water reticulation facilities.

Mr President,

It has now been over a month since the cross-border humanitarian assistance programme has been reduced to just one border crossing at Bab al-Hawa. We appreciated the efforts made by the UN and its partners to make every effort to ensure that people in need feel minimal impact as a result of this reduction.

However, we must also remain cognisant of the increased challenges this has brought about, making humanitarian operations in the Northwest more costly, risker and less timely. South Africa calls on all actors, in particular the Syrian Government, to increase its cooperation with humanitarian agencies and work towards the improvement and enhancement of all modalities, including cross-line assistance programmes.

We note with appreciation the efforts for increased crossline deliveries in the Northeast and Northwest of Syria, and call on all parties to continue these efforts.

South Africa reiterates its call for the safe, unimpeded and impartial delivery of humanitarian aid and assistance to all who require it, in line with the provisions of international humanitarian law.

Mr President,

In light of the continuing humanitarian situation and the significant impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in all parts of Syria, the imposition of unilateral sanctions only further worsens the economic and humanitarian situation in the country. In this regard, we request the Secretary-General to include in his bi-monthly reports to the Council, an overview of the effects and impact of unilateral sanctions on the humanitarian situation in Syria.

In conclusion Mr President, the situation in Syria can only be resolved through negotiations and mediation. South Africa calls on all parties to exert every effort towards the full implementation of Resolution 2254 (2015).

In this regard, we are pleased to hear that the discussions of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva, suspended due to positive COVID-19 cases amongst a few of the participants, will resume today.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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