No justification for destruction of civilian areas in Idlib: UN humanitarian chief

There can be no justification for the destruction of civilian areas in Idlib, Syria, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock has said.

“There can be no reason, rationale, excuse or justification for the destruction of civilian areas on the scale seen in Idlib today,” the UN humanitarian chief told the Security Council meeting on the humanitarian situation in Syria.

Citing the August 21 report of the secretary-general on the implementation of UN resolutions on Syria, Lowcock said that by the end of July, more than 500 civilians had been killed and many hundreds more injured since the start of the escalation of the situation in northwest Syria in late April.

The World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund reported that 43 health facilities, 87 educational facilities, 29 water stations and seven markets had all been impacted by fighting during the period.

“Over the weekend of August 16-18, an additional 44 civilians were reportedly killed due to airstrikes, including 16 children and 12 women,” he said. “On Monday this week, 15 civilians, including women and children, were reportedly killed in airstrikes on seven communities in Idlib.”

“And this morning we received reports that yesterday, 17 more people, including three women and seven children, were killed by airstrikes, and that a healthcare facility in Ghadqa town was damaged,” the UN humanitarian chief added.

Lowcock told the Council that in the months ahead, the Board of Inquiry announced by the secretary-general will investigate incidents in northwest Syria which damaged or destroyed facilities which have either been deconflicted or received humanitarian support from the UN.

Speaking of humanitarian assistance, Lowcock said that despite all the challenges, the humanitarian community “is doing everything it can to respond to the needs of the estimated 3 million people in and around Idlib.”

“With some 15,000 aid workers on the ground, humanitarians continue to provide shelter materials, food assistance and health services to the population including newly displaced people,” he added.

“More than a million people receive general food assistance every month. The people of Idlib are reached exclusively through the cross-border operation,” said the UN humanitarian chief. “Because, as I have said before, that is the only way they can be reached for as long as access from within the country is impeded.”

Lowcock also briefed the Council on the dire humanitarian situation in Al Hol and Rukban camps, urging the Council and its members to “take meaningful action” to protect civilians and ensure full respect for international humanitarian law.