UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The United Nations chief has warned that a “hurricane of humanitarian crises” around the world has left civilians in conflict areas paying the highest price.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said humanitarian needs are outpacing the ability of the United Nations and aid organizations to meet them, “turbocharged by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“We are in uncharted waters,” he said in a speech to the UN Security Council read by Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed.
“The sheer scale of humanitarian needs have never been greater,” Guterres said. “The United Nations and our partners are seeking to reach 160 million people with assistance this year — the highest figure ever.”
He cited Ethiopia’s Tigray region, Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria as examples of the “bloody surge in humanitarian crises.”
From Tigray, he said, the UN has heard “credible reports” in the past few months of executions of civilians, arbitrary arrests and detentions, sexual violence against children and forced displacement “on a massive scale.”
“In Afghanistan, brutal attacks killed at least 24 civilians, including five health workers, during just one week in June,” he said. “Civilian casualties in the first quarter of this year increased by 29 percent compared to last year; the increase for women was 37 percent.”
The secretary-general said in Yemen, at least five civilians are killed or injured every day on average, 20 million people are in dire need of humanitarian aid, and five million “are face-to-face with famine.”
And in last month’s attack on one of the largest hospitals in northern Syria, which killed 19 civilians including three children, one missile reportedly hit the emergency room and another hit the delivery room, he said.
Guterres urged the Security Council to take strong and immediate action to support its resolutions on protecting civilians, humanitarian and health care workers, as well as hospitals, schools, water facilities and other “humanitarian space.”
Around the world, he said, security incidents affecting humanitarian organizations including shootings, assaults, sexual violence, kidnappings and raids “have increased tenfold since 2001.”
In Tigray, 12 aid workers have been killed since the conflict started in November 2020 and many more have been intimidated, harassed and detained, he said.
So far this year, Guterres said, the World Health Organization has recorded 568 incidents affecting the delivery of medical care in 14 conflict zones including shootings, shelling, threats, equipment removals, and the militarization of medical facilities causing 114 deaths of health care workers and patients.