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Aid groups give UN 'failing grade' on Syria

NGOs say diplomacy has not been translated into action on the ground, leaving Syrian civilians in great peril

More than 20 international aid groups sharply criticized the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, saying in a report that the body has failed to implement three resolutions passed last year to boost humanitarian assistance to Syrian civilians caught in the country's civil war.

The 21 humanitarian and human rights organizations delivered a "failing grade" for world powers and the broader international community as Syria's uprising against President Bashar al-Assad entered its fifth year. The conflict, which began with peaceful protests before escalating into a voracious civil war, has touched off a devastating humanitarian crisis that has engulfed the region.

The aid groups – including the International Rescue Committee, the Norwegian Refugee Council and Handicap International – call on U.N. members to ensure the resolutions are fully implemented. 

Since the conflict began in March 2011, more than 220,000 people have been killed and 1 million wounded. Nearly 4 million Syrians have fled and registered as refugees in neighboring countries, while another 7.6 million are displaced inside Syria. All told, an estimated 12.2 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the U.N.

The spiraling crisis spurred the Security Council — usually paralyzed by divisions on Syria — to pass three resolutions last year aiming to increase humanitarian aid. The latest resolution, approved unanimously in December, extended cross-border aid deliveries to Syrians in rebel-held areas without approval from Damascus.

But the aid groups say diplomacy has not translated into action on the ground.

"The bitter reality is that the Security Council has failed to implement its resolutions," said Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council. "Last year was the darkest year yet in this horrific war. Parties to the conflict have acted with impunity and ignored the Security Council's demands, civilians are not protected and their access to relief has not improved."

Andy Baker, the head of aid group Oxfam International's response to the Syria crisis, said the U.N.'s words "now ring hollow."

"The last year has seen little concrete action from parties to the conflict and governments with influence to tackle the spiraling humanitarian crisis in Syria," Baker said. "What good is a resolution to a mother whose house has been bombed and children are hungry if it is ignored and undermined?"

In their 27-page report, the aid organizations say the number of Syrians in need in hard-to-reach areas has nearly doubled in the past year to 4.8 million. The number of children in need of assistance has risen to 5.6 million, up 31 percent since last year, they said.

Funding, meanwhile, has not kept pace with needs. In 2013, 71 percent of the funds needed to support Syrians displaced in the country as well as refugees were provided. Last year, only 57 percent of the necessary funds were granted, the groups said.

Another report released Wednesday said the war had plunged 80 percent of Syrian people into poverty, reduced life expectancy by 20 years from 75.9 years in 2010 to an estimated 55.7 years at the end of 2014, and led to massive economic losses estimated at over $200 billion since the conflict began in 2011, according to the Syrian Center for Policy Research. Syria now has the second-largest refugee population in the world after the Palestinians, the report added. 

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press

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