This week marks five years since the start of the war in Syria. More than 250,000 people have been killed and millions displaced in a conflict which has created the largest humanitarian crisis of our time. We, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, take this opportunity to call on all parties to the conflict to do everything in their power to find a long term and sustainable political solution to the conflict.
We mark this commemoration with both deep sadness and great admiration for all those who have endured terrible hardships over the past five years. We reaffirm our commitment to the people of Syria, who have shown incredible fortitude and resilience in the face of adversity. We remain determined to support them as they keep striving for a better tomorrow, for a future for their children.
The recent cessation of hostilities has brought a period of long-sought calm for the Syrian people and we welcome all efforts to find a political solution to this crisis. The fact remains that over 13.5 million people in Syria are still in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, five million of them children, many of whom have only known war. Daily life is characterized by fear and uncertainty. Bombs and mortars strike indiscriminately. Homes, hospitals and schools have been damaged or destroyed completely.
Some 6.6 million people have been displaced internally, often many times over. Staff and volunteers of the Syrian Red Crescent (SARC), supported by Movement partners, work tirelessly to do what they can to help, frequently in difficult and dangerous circumstances. Each month, SARC distributes relief to 4.5 million people, and it is the primary local partner for the UN and all international NGOs registered and operating throughout Syria.
In the past five years, 53 SARC volunteers and staff have been killed in the course of their humanitarian work in the country, as well as eight volunteers and staff of the Palestine Red Crescent Society. We take this opportunity to pay tribute to the tremendous courage and dedication of the volunteers and staff of the Red Crescent. We urge all parties to this conflict to ensure aid workers are protected and allowed to do their jobs in safety.
We also mark this anniversary by reiterating our call for regular, unimpeded access to the besieged and hard-to-reach areas of Syria. Humanitarian aid should not be dependent on political negotiations and we remind all parties to this conflict of their obligations under international humanitarian law (IHL) to respect civilian life and human dignity.
As a Movement, we stand resolute in our determination to bring help to all those who need it. Beyond Syria’s borders, many more tragedies are unfolding. Over 9 million people have now fled the fighting in Syria, the majority to the neighbouring countries of Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey. Millions more have risked their lives to cross into Europe. Throughout their perilous journeys, National Red Cross Red Crescent Societies have been a constant presence and a constant support. United by the Fundamental Principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality, Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and staff are working around the clock to provide people on the move with food, water, healthcare and reassurance. Our work in psychosocial support and restoring family links has meant that millions of families have been comforted and reunited, a glimmer of hope amongst terrible sadness. But there is much work to be done in the weeks and months to come. We stand united as a Movement to ensure the protection of migrants, refugees and people seeking asylum.
As the Syria conflict enters its sixth year and as another phase of critical peace talks get underway in Geneva, we urge all those with a role in the conflict to remember that they have the fate of millions in their hands.
International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies