BEIRUT, 22 January 2013 – OCHA Operations Director John Ging and Emergency Directors from six other UN humanitarian agencies spoke today of what they saw during a five-day trip to Syria, where they visited Damascus, the surrounding area, Homs, Talbiseh and Dera’a.
At the press conference in Beirut, Mr. Ging, on behalf of all emergency directors, said the delegation, which visited Syria to assess humanitarian needs and identify ways to increase access to people in need in all areas of the country, was shocked by what they saw. The mission crossed conflict lines into the city of Talbiseh, battered by more than 20 months of violence, in a visit coordinated with both the Government and the opposition.
Ging said that the plight of the Syrian people was appalling and that children are suffering the most. He spoke about hospitals they visited without any supplies while basic services were destroyed on a massive scale and stressed the need for humanitarian agencies to move “bigger, better and faster.”
The Emergency Directors each spoke briefly about their organizations’ humanitarian assistance and the major challenges in Syria.
Ted Chaiban, UNICEF’s head of emergency operations, talked about the plight of the Syrian people, including internally displaced people (IDPs), and said that half of the 4 million affected Syrians are children living in the worst conditions and suffering from the psycho-social effects of the violence they witness on a daily basis.
“Some children have been out of school for almost one or two years. With the destruction of the infrastructure, 25 per cent or 3,900 schools have been damaged, destroyed or being utilized as shelters. Another important issue relates to the lack of chlorine as local industries have been destroyed. The IDPs now have access to one-third of the water they used to have,” he said.
He said UNICEF and its partners are accelerating provision of chlorine tablets as the contamination of water can pose a real threat on the health of children. Already many health problems like scabies and skin diseases are present. He noted that UNICEF had been able to vaccinate 1.6 million children against measles and polio in 14 governorates.
A second round of vaccinations is planned to reach an additional 700,000 children in April 2013. He said UNICEF works with a range of partners including health authorities, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, over 40 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), international NGOs and Civil Society Organizations to achieve these results.
“The resilience of the Syrian people is an example to the world,” Chaiban said.
“They continue to care for their children and request education to ensure their future. Students are volunteering and creating neighbourhood committees exposing themselves to death to distribute assistance. Families in Syria are the heroes of this conflict and we have to ensure that they are not forgotten. A lot has been done but a lot still needs to be done,” he added.
UNICEF works in more than 190 countries and areas to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: http://www.unicef.org
For more information, please contact:
Simon Ingram, UNICEF Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa,
Tel + 962 79 590 4740,
Juliette Touma, UNICEF Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa,
Mobile + 962 79 867 4628 / + 962 79 826 3437,