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Int'l solidarity, support vital amid Syrian crisis: UN humanitarian official

Panos Moumtzis, U.N. Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis

Syria continues to remain one of the largest and most complex humanitarian crises in the world today. After close to eight years of protracted conflict, some 13 million Syrian women, children and men inside the country remain in need of humanitarian assistance, of whom 6.2 million are internally displaced across Syria. In addition, some 5.6 million Syrians are refugees in neighboring countries, mainly in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Above all, Syria is in a protection crisis, where human security of people remains shattered in many parts of the country and the protection of civilians is not respected, particularly amid hostilities, resulting in scores of deaths and attacks on health facilities, schools and civilian-populated areas. While these numbers outline the scale of the crisis, they don't tell the individual stories and traumatic experiences narrated to us on a daily basis by countless women, children and families.

As humanitarians, we currently have two significant concerns in our operations. The first concern is the area of Idlib in northwest Syria, where we hope the current calm following the Russian and Turkish government-brokered agreement to create a demilitarized zone in the province will hold, avoiding a military escalation that could result in one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes of the 21st century. The lives of 3 million civilians, including 1 million children, depend on this agreement holding. The second concern is that our ability to deliver life-saving humanitarian assistance to those most in need is being challenged. As humanitarians, we are guided by international humanitarian law and the principles of impartiality, neutrality and independence, helping Syrians in all areas regardless of who is in control. Humanity drives our motives to respond.

The government of Japan has generously responded since the early stages of the crisis supporting humanitarian needs of the Syrian people both inside the country and in the region. The support from Japan has enabled humanitarian partners to deliver emergency assistance, basic services and long-term resilience support to people in need in Syria. Japan's role as a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council between 2016 and 2017 was crucial in enabling much-needed assistance from outside Syria to reach millions of people inside Syria. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the people of Japan and the government of Japan for their immense support which is making a huge difference in saving lives and bringing relief to the lives of millions of Syrians who have found themselves in a desperate situation.

But as we move towards eight years of conflict, international solidarity and support is still very much needed. The humanitarian crisis is not over and the Syrian people still need our help. I would also like to praise the excellent work provided by Japanese nongovernmental organizations and Japanese staff working with United Nations agencies on the Syria crisis. We hope in 2019 to see a stronger collaboration with Japan in the humanitarian response. As a key international partner and advocate for global humanitarian action, Japan's voice is valued and needed on all fronts.

(By Panos Moumtzis, United Nations Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis)

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