Seventh Syrian Humanitarian Forum
On Tuesday 19 February, OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) hosted the seventh Syrian Humanitarian Forum in Geneva. Iceland took part in a joint statement along with 48 countries which was delivered by Belgium. The statement focuses mainly on the lack of access for medical and humanitarian assistance in Syria.
Fighting and violence have reached unprecedented levels in Syria, with disastrous consequences for the civilian population. Civilians are in urgent need of protection and humanitarian assistance.
In particular, it is of great concern that patients, medical personnel, facilities and vehicles are being deliberately targeted. Medical facilities, including hospitals, are being exploited for combat purposes and in some cases are being used as torture and detention centres. People lack access to medical care or medical facilities, depriving them of basic medical services, jeopardizing public health and putting maternity and infant care at risk. Humanitarian organizations are being refused access and face dire conditions in their operations.
The medical infrastructure in Syria has been severely damaged for nearly two years. According to the UN, 55 % of the public hospitals have been damaged and more than one-third of all hospitals are out of service. Over two-thirds of ambulances in the country have been damaged, and some are being misused for combat purposes.
The rules of international humanitarian law must be respected by all parties to the conflict to avoid civilian loss of life. It is the responsibility of all parties to comply fully with the principles of distinction, of proportionality and of precaution to protect at all times civilians against the violence of conflict.
It is our collective responsibility to remind all parties of their obligations under international humanitarian law.
We call upon all parties to the conflict to protect medical personnel, facilities and transport. We equally urge them to allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded humanitarian access to the whole of the territory and deliver medical care and humanitarian assistance on a non-discriminatory basis. We also urge all parties to guarantee the safety and security of humanitarian personnel in the exercise of their duties.
These humanitarian actions are urgently required. They must remain independent of efforts to resolve the conflict politically. The whole international community must use its influence on all parties to respect their obligations and to protect the provision of medical and humanitarian assistance in Syria.
I thank you very much.