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Statement Attributable to Ms. Najat Rochdi, Senior Humanitarian Adviser to the Special Envoy for Syria, on the Situation Across Syria

23 April 2020

At today’s Humanitarian Task Force (HTF) meeting, convened virtually in Geneva, Senior Humanitarian Adviser Ms. Najat Rochdi emphasised the need for immediate, safe and unhindered access for humanitarian workers and to allow for the movement of humanitarian supplies, including urgent needs related to COVID-19.

Humanitarian needs in Syria remain extensive with more than 11 million people requiring some form of humanitarian assistance, including 4.7 million people living in areas of high severity of need. The response needed for COVID-19 has added to these humanitarian demands. Significant price increases and some shortages of basic goods and personal sterilisation items have been reported.

The Syrian Government and de facto authorities in areas outside government control continue to prepare for and respond to the threat of COVID-19. Severe challenges remain, however, including the living conditions of internally displaced persons, shortages of staff and medical equipment, and in areas that have seen heavy conflict, there is a lack of adequate healthcare facilities.

COVID-19 poses a very significant risk to all Syrians.

Ms. Rochdi focused on access as the primary tool to fight COVID-19; access for Rapid Response Teams in all governorates of Syria, irrespective of areas of influence; access for the movement of relief items and humanitarian workers across national borders and in-country crossings; and access to medical facilities for urgent medical cases, particularly cases from Rukban.

Reminding HTF members of ongoing humanitarian needs in addition to COVID-19 response requirements, Ms. Rochdi continued to stress the need for cross-line operations, including rapid action for essential medical supplies to reach northeast Syria to ensure continuity of health services.

Calling on parties to enable the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to resume its activities, she demanded that full protection be afforded by parties to the conflict to all humanitarian organisations.

Ms. Rochdi also reiterated the call of the Special Envoy for a nationwide ceasefire in Syria for an all-out effort to combat COVID-19.

On the tragic humanitarian situation inside Rukban, Ms. Rochdi stressed the necessity for an immediate and unhindered health assessment mission and for the delivery of humanitarian assistance including food, health, and hygiene items to Rukban, and thereafter, a regular supply of these items to the residents of Rukban.

Reminding HTF members that international humanitarian law grants freedom of movement to civilians, Ms. Rochdi called on HTF members with influence to enable voluntary departures from Rukban, stressing that a durable solution for the residents of Rukban must be found.

Geneva, 23 April 2020