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Updated On: Saturday, 23 June 2018
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UN Warns of Increased Violence in Syria

Content by: South-South News

12 June 2018, New York, USA | South-South News — A top UN aid official said the situation inside Syria’s Idlib region threatens to become “highly explosive” amid an uptick in conflict between armed groups and a spike in the number of people displaced inside the war-torn country.

Panos Moumtzis, the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, told journalists in Geneva on June 11 that 1.2 million of the governorate’s more than 2.5 million people are now displaced; many of them multiple times.

The situation was “heartbreaking” and complicated by the fact that Idlib has become a haven for belligerents forced out of former strongholds by government forces, the UN official explained: “It’s the fact that fighters have been taken over from every single every area every time there was an immigration inside Idlib. We have seen in the last few weeks an escalation of even fighting between these groups that has taken place. We have come out with public statements on that, fighting that has taken place around health facilities, fighting that have taken place in multiple locations. So again, a special solution needs to be found for all these groups inside Idlib, because the current composition makes it highly explosive.”

The first four months of the year have seen more than 900,000 people flee their homes inside Syria.This is “the highest displacement number since the conflict started”, Moumtzis said, adding eight in 10 people had come from Rural Damascus and Afrin in the north, while others had been displaced within Idlib governorate itself.

Across Syria, more than two million people are in so-called hard-to-reach areas and around 11,000 are still under siege in opposition-controlled territory.

Some 6.2 million people are internally displaced and a further 5.6 million have fled the country amid ongoing conflict that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and destroyed basic infrastructure.

With needs funded at only 26 per cent, the UN official called for pledges made at a recent EU-hosted conference in Brussels, Belgium, to be disbursed promptly.

Moumtzis said, “Last year we received about $1.8 billion and our aim is to at least get the same if not receive more funding than last year, in particular in view of the massive displacement that we are seeing so far since the beginning of the year.”

The UN Resident Humanitarian Coordinator added that a shortage of funding meant that aid teams could not go where they were needed, despite having full access to areas such as Idlib.

He said, “It’s heartbreaking when we have to sit and do this prioritization, it’s heartbreaking when go to communities and people who are in need and we say, ‘We cannot help you this month because there is newly displaced somewhere else and we have to prioritize.’ So this shifting of aid which includes basic life-saving, in terms of health, in terms of food, of water, in terms of minimum bare, basic programs which are taking place, we have to re-prioritize and to go to areas which are more in need.”

Moumtzis stressed that every effort needed to be made to prevent the situation in Idlib deteriorating further and turning into a repeat of East Aleppo and East Ghouta: “The big concern we have in Idlib: like in the southern region Dera, we would like to see a peaceful way forward, we worry not to see an East Ghouta scenario developing in Idlib. Protection of civilians is of major concern, in particular given the composition, given the fact that there is a sizeable number of women, children, families living there.”

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