Humanitarian aid in Syria

I agree that the humanitarian situation in Idlib is extremely serious and urgent.  I know the completely unwarranted attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, such as hospitals and schools, are causing immense suffering.

The Foreign Office continues to take action both in terms of trying to secure compliance with the ceasefire and also through continuing humanitarian aid to the area.

There was an Urgent Question asked in the House on the 18th June and the Minister outlined the various steps being taken to try to address the humanitarian situation in Idlib. The Minister confirmed to the House that the recent attacks were a clear breach of international law and the Foreign Office has called on the regime and Russia to end the attacks. Russia are clearly supporting the regime and must be held to account.

The Department for International Development continues to play a lead role in the area. The Government is maximising efforts to do as much as it can to alleviate suffering but it is very difficult when much depends on access to those most in need and the safety of aid workers trying to help. At the moment, that is a very real problem which the Department is trying to overcome. All parties must allow humanitarian aid access to those who wish to protect civilians.

Last year, the UK provided over £80 million in humanitarian assistance in the region, which included supporting the provision of food, shelter and other essential items for those caught up in the conflict and this is part of an ongoing programme of £400 million provided to help ease the appalling conditions in Syria. In response to the recent situation, the partners of the Department for International Development are scaling up their humanitarian response to meet the growing need on the ground by, for instance, supporting health facilities and through the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund, they are also supporting innovative new technology that provides civilians in Idlib with early warnings of airstrikes in order to save lives. More details about the Fund and its work can be found here.

The Foreign Office has also been working with international partners and particularly the UN including emergency sessions in May and a further session on 18th June. Quite rightly, the focus of the Government is on getting back to compliance with Security Resolution 2254.

In terms of further pressure, the Government is using public statements, diplomatic relationships and the UN Security Council, to increase the pressure on all parties to end the violence, return to the ceasefire agreed in September 2018 and abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law.

The Minister also recently confirmed to the House that no fly zones in the area are not considered to be a realistic way of dealing with this.

It remains an extremely difficult and heart-breaking situation and the Government must re-double its efforts and continue to work with others in the international community to bring an end to this suffering.