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UN: Syria facing “acute violence” and the worst economic crisis


UNITED NATIONS – Syria is facing “acute violence”, the worst economic crisis since the start of the war in 2011, and a rapidly spreading cholera epidemic with more than 24,000 suspected cases reported across the country and in least 80 deaths, UN officials said on Tuesday.

UN special envoy Geir Pedersen told the UN Security Council that the conflict remained ‘highly active’ across the country despite the ‘strategic stalemate’ which has stalled efforts to start a process politics between the government and the opposition.

He pointed to infighting between armed opposition groups in Afrin in northern Aleppo province in recent weeks, pro-government airstrikes in the northwest, violence in the northeast, incidents security in the southwest, the airstrikes attributed to Israel on airports in Damascus and Aleppo, and the discovery in the northeast of one of the largest caches of Islamic State weapons since the fall of his so-called caliphate in 2017.

Over the past few weeks, Pedersen said, Syria’s currency, the pound, “has lost an enormous amount of its value…which in turn has seen food and fuel prices soar to record highs again. higher”. And he warned that the economic crisis “will only get worse for the vast majority” with winter approaching and additional funding urgently needed.

Reena Ghelani, director of operations for the UN humanitarian office, told the council that “communities in Syria are caught in the middle of a spiral of security, public health and economic crisis ‘that has left many people’ struggling to survive”.

She said the cholera epidemic is aggravated by the severe water shortage in Syria and aggravated by insufficient and poorly distributed rainfall in many places, severe drought conditions, low water levels in the Euphrates and damaged water infrastructure.

“The crisis is likely to worsen further: the outlook through December suggests an increased likelihood of below-normal rainfall and above-normal temperatures,” Ghelani said. “If this materializes, it will further aggravate an already serious water crisis.”

She said a three-month plan to respond to the cholera outbreak, coordinated by the UN, requires $34.4 million to help 5 million people with water, sanitation and hygiene needs and 162,000 with health services. The UN will make around $10 million available, but “much more is needed”, she said.

Water scarcity has also impacted crops with the lowest wheat harvest since the start of the war as well as the livelihoods of threatened farmers, Ghelani said.

In addition, the rate of food insecurity is “spinning out of control”, malnutrition rates are rising and “Syrians today can only afford 15% of the food they could buy three years ago. “, she said.

With winter approaching in just weeks, Ghelani said, the number of people across the country needing help to survive the cold has risen 30% from last year, including some 2 million in the northwest, mostly women and children living in camps with limited or no access. heating, electricity, water or waste water disposal.

Humanitarian organizations have launched winterization efforts, but the program is “grossly underfunded”, Grelani said, pointing to the sector which provides shelter, blankets, heating, fuel, winter clothing and food. other non-food items which is only 10% funded.

A 2012 UN roadmap for peace in Syria endorsed by representatives of the United Nations, the Arab League, the European Union, Turkey and the five permanent members of the Security Council calls for the drafting of a new constitution and culminates in UN-supervised elections with all Syrians, including members of the diaspora, eligible to participate.

At a Syrian peace conference hosted by Russia in January 2018, an agreement was reached to form a 150-member committee to draft a new constitution. It took until September 2019 for the committee to be formed, and after eight rounds of talks, little progress has been made so far.

UN envoy Pedersen said he was continuing “to work to unblock the obstacles to the reconvening of the constitutional committee” and pushing the main parties “to commit to confidence-building measures step step by step to help move the roadmap forward.

Russia’s military support for Syria has changed the trajectory of the Syrian conflict. The EU imposed sanctions on Russia after Crimea was annexed by Ukraine in 2014 and increased sanctions after President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine on February 24.

Russia’s deputy ambassador to the UN, Dmitry Polyansky, has accused the West of backing al-Qaeda ‘terrorists’ Hayat Tahrir al-Sham who are trying to expand their area of ​​control beyond the north -west of Idlib and accused the United States of encouraging “Kurdish separatism”.

Tensions in northern Syria between US-backed Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces fighters and Turkish-backed opposition gunmen.

US Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood responded by saying “the United States is in Syria for the sole purpose of enabling the ongoing campaign against ISIS”, an acronym for the extremist group Islamic State.


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