Humanitarian appeal for Syrian Arab Republic

Dr Margaret Chan
Director-General of the World Health Organization

Speech at the Joint launch of the Syria Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan 2013 and the Syria Regional Response Plan 2013
Geneva, Switzerland

7 June 2013

Ladies and gentlemen,

This is the largest humanitarian appeal in history. It is fully justified. The situation within Syria continues to deteriorate. The flow of refugees into neighbouring countries continues to escalate.

I am here to speak for the health of millions of people. These are the millions of Syrians within their homeland, the 1.5 million Syrians who have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, and the millions and millions of generous citizens in these neighbouring countries.

Everyone affected by this conflict is worried about health and survival: their own health, the health of their families and children, and sometimes the health and survival of entire communities.

Everyone providing humanitarian assistance is worried about the health of these people. We are all making a contribution to health, whether by helping to shelter and safeguard refugees or ensuring sufficient food, safe water, and adequate sanitation.

We are all, collectively, assisting the sick and the wounded, the communities at risk of outbreaks, the children who are not getting vaccines, and the women giving birth in a situation where half of Syria’s public hospitals have been damaged or shut down because of conflict.

The two appeals we are launching today represent only the high-priority life-saving needs of these people.

These are emergency needs.

Preventing needless deaths, whether from injuries or disease, is at the heart of these appeals and the work of every agency.

The priority needs for the health sector amount to US$ 177 million for Syria, and US$ 242 million for neighbouring countries.

But funds alone will not solve all the problems confronting the health sector.

All parties in the conflict must respect the integrity and neutrality of health facilities. They must ensure the protection of health workers and patients, in line with their obligations under international humanitarian law.

It is totally unacceptable that so many hospitals have been damaged. It is totally unacceptable that more than half of Syria’s ambulances have been knocked out of service.

The shortage of health staff, medicines, and supplies is a major concern. The risk of outbreaks is a major concern. This risk will grow over the coming months.

Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, and Egypt are generously aiming to give refugees the same level of health care enjoyed by their own citizens. This generosity is taking a heavy toll on their economies, even compromising the quality of care offered to their own citizens

Let me illustrate the magnitude of this burden with just two statistics. In Lebanon, Syrians occupied more than 2000 hospital beds, at a cost of US$ 800 per patient per day, at the start of this year.

In Jordan, the number of hospital visits by refugees grew from 300 per month in January of last year to 10 000 visits this past March.

As I said, protecting health is at the heart of everything all of us are doing on the humanitarian front.

By protecting health, we are increasing the resilience of these populations and, most importantly, their prospects for recovery.

Thank you.