New York: At least one million Syrians are in need of humanitarian
assistance, according to the findings of a government-led
assessment mission jointly carried out with the United Nations and
the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and released today.
Those in need include people directly affected by the ongoing
violence, such as the injured and internally displaced persons,
and those of have lost access to essential services and host
families, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs (OCHA) said in a summary of the assessment.
Technical staff from eight UN agencies participated in the
assessment, which concluded on Monday, as well as three staff from
the OIC. The team visited Aleppo, Ar Roqqa, Dara’a, Dayr Az Zor,
Hama, Homs, Idlib, Lattakia, Rural Damascus and Tartous
governorates. The analysis has already been shared with the Syrian
Information was gathered from civilians, government officials,
religious and community leaders, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC),
and local non-governmental organizations. While some areas could
not be accessed due to ongoing insecurity or time constraints, the
mission’s members were able to visit opposition-held
neighbourhoods, according to OCHA.
Priority needs identified in the assessment include protection,
food, medical assistance, non-food items, such as beddings and
household essentials, and education.
Syria’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs has approved the
delivery of assistance in coordination with the SARC. An initial
convoy carrying food, blankets and hygiene kits for 2,000
displaced families left Damascus for the Tartous Governorate
yesterday. Delivery is expected to begin tomorrow and further
distributions are planned in other locations.
OCHA said that humanitarian efforts must remain completely
separate from any political agenda and that UN agencies will
continue to ensure the neutrality, independence and impartiality
of their humanitarian work. The assessment report also encouraged
donors to contribute to the newly established Emergency Response
Fund for Syria.
Meanwhile, the Director-General of UN Educational, Scientific and
Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova, called for the
protection of Syria’s cultural legacy, citing media reports that
have indicated possible damage to precious sites during the
“I wish to express my grave concern about possible damage to
precious sites and to call upon all those involved in the conflict
to ensure the protection of the outstanding cultural legacy that
Syria hosts on its soil,” said Ms. Bokova. “Damage to the heritage
of the country is damage to the soul of its people and its
A succession of cultures in what is now Syria left an outstanding
wealth of archaeological sites, historic cities, cultural
landscapes, monuments and works of art that bear witness to the
evolution of human ingenuity, according to UNESCO.
Six Syrian sites – Damascus, Aleppo, Palmyra, Bosra, the Crac des
Chevaliers and Saladin’s Castle, the Ancient Villages of Northern
Syria – are inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Many others
are inscribed on the country’s Tentative List, such as Apamea –
where a number of journalists have reported that the Citadel of
Madiq has been bombarded. The so-called Tentative List is an
inventory of those properties which a country intends to consider
for nomination to the World Heritage List.
Earlier this year, UNESCO reminded the Syrian authorities, through
the country’s representative to the agency, of their
responsibility to ensure the protection of cultural heritage.
“This situation is becoming more crucial by the hour,” said Ms.
Bokova. “I urge the Syrian authorities to respect the
international Conventions they have signed, in particular the 1954
Convention for the Protection of Cultural Properties in the Event
of Armed Conflict, the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and
Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of
Cultural Property, and the World Heritage Convention.”
The UNESCO chief has contacted the World Customs Organization, the
international police organization INTERPOL, and the specialized
heritage police of France and Italy to alert them to objects from
Syria that could appear on the international antiquities market.
“UNESCO stands ready to assist in assessing reports of damage to
the cultural heritage of Syria, including the World Heritage
sites, and in preparing plans for their safeguarding, as soon as
this becomes possible,” she added.