Failure of Geneva II talks would put millions of lives at risk, warns aid coalition

by Danish Refugee Council | Danish Refugee Council (DRC) - Denmark
Monday, 20 January 2014 08:47 GMT

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

35 member aid group calls for a peaceful solution to the Syria conflict.

Amman, 20 January 2014. Two days ahead of the scheduled Geneva II peace talks, the Syria INGO Regional Forum (SIRF), a coalition of leading global aid agencies responding to the Syria crisis calls on all parties to the conflict to double their efforts to reach a negotiated settlement. “The crisis in Syria will soon be entering its fourth year, and the plight of millions of Syrians must be seen as a catalyst to secure peace. Every day that passes, without a resolution to the conflict, more vulnerable people are pushed deeper into hunger and poverty. We must ensure that these talks result in action to bring an end to the suffering of millions of ordinary Syrians who have lived in misery far too long,” says Rob Drouen, chair of the SIRF board. While peace in Syria is the goal, SIRF calls on all parties to the conflict to halt violence against civilians and enable communities caught up in the fighting to access the humanitarian assistance they so desperately need.

“The war in Syria is impacting in horrific and irreversible ways on health, education and livelihoods of whole generations, not only in Syria but across the region. Conflict is also spilling into neighbouring countries and the ramifications of this are unconscionable,” adds Drouen.

Within Syria, a third of the entire population – around six million people, almost half of them children – have been displaced from their homes. Schools and hospitals have been damaged or destroyed, and the health system has collapsed across much of the country. The risk of what are normally easily preventable or treated diseases is rapidly increasing and outbreaks of polio, typhoid and measles are increasing threats. “Accessing those in need is increasingly difficult. The international community must do everything in its power to halt armed conflict and enable unhindered humanitarian access to those in need across Syria,” says Dina Morad, SIRF board member.

In addition to those in crisis within Syria, more than 2.3 million refugees have officially registered with the UN, but unofficial estimates of unregistered civilians indicate that the number in surrounding countries might already total around 4.5 million.

According to latest UN estimates, the number of people in need of humanitarian aid both within Syria and the region exceeds a staggering ten million. In recent weeks, Syrian refugees across the region have been hit hard by winter storms and plunging temperatures, heaping another layer of misery to their struggle to survive. “More and more families have no access to health care, have lost any source of income, and can no longer afford food, clothing, or adequate housing. A mother told me that she wakes up at night and checks on her children, afraid they might have frozen to death,” says Morad.

“Every day brings more death and, more communities are  torn apart as hopes for reconciliation and recovery fade. Millions affected by this worst humanitarian crisis in decades will continue  paying a heavy price if the peace talks fail,” adds Thierry Benlahsen, member of the SIRF board.

For more information and interview requests, please contact:
- Johanna Mitscherlich, CARE International, Amman: +962 775 442241
- Ned Colt, The International Rescue Committee, Amman: +962 775 066652
- Logan Sullivan, Handicap International, Beirut: +962 789 885384 or +961 793 13907

The Syria INGO Regional Forum’s members responding to the Syrian crisis inside Syria and in neighbouring countries include:
ACTED, Action Aid, Action Against Hunger, CAFOD, CARE, Danish Church Aid, Danish Refugee Council, Handicap International, HelpAge International, Intersos, International Medical Corps, International Catholic Migration Commission, Catholic Relief Services, International Rescue Committee, IRD, Islamic Relief, LIFE for Relief and Development, Lutheran World Federation, Medair, Medecins du Monde, Mennonite Central Committee, Mercy Corps, NRC, Oxfam, Première Urgence - Aide Médicale Internationale, Relief International, Save the Children, Secours Islamique Français, SNAP, Solidarités International, Terre des Hommes,  Un Ponte Per, War Child UK, War Child Holland, World Vision.