I am grateful to the honourable Lady and to you, Mr Speaker, for the chance to discuss this important matter today.
No-one who has seen the pictures coming out of Madaya can say it’s anything other than utterly appalling.
This atrocious situation is deliberate and man-made. The Assad regime has besieged the town since July, causing horrific suffering and starvation.
I should remind the House that the UK has been at the forefront of global efforts to help people suffering inside Syria from day one, day in day out, for the last 4 years.
The House will be aware that a humanitarian convoy is delivering enough food to all those in Madaya for the next month. The aid on this convoy is UK funded.
We have allocated £561 million to help people specifically inside Syria. This is partly delivered out of Damascus – which is around 40km from Madaya – with the consent of the regime, as well as across borders from neighbouring countries without regime consent.
This sits alongside all the work the UK is doing to help Syrian refugees across the region. Our overall response of £1.12 billion for Syria and the region represents our largest ever response to a single humanitarian crisis and makes us the second largest donor after the US.
We lobbied hard for UN Security Council Resolutions 2165 and 2191 – superseded by Resolution 2258 – which now enable the UN to deliver aid across borders, without the consent of the regime. This is pivotal in order to get to people we need to.
But we must remember the people of Madaya are not alone in facing these horrors. They represent just 10% of people in besieged areas and 1% of people in so-called hard-to-reach areas in Syria. There are 400,000 people now live in besieged areas like Madaya and around 4.5 million in hard-to-reach areas in Syria.
Across Syria, Assad and other parties to the conflict are wilfully impeding humanitarian access on a daily basis. It is outrageous, unacceptable and illegal to use starvation as a weapon of war.
The most effective way to get food to people who are starving and to stop these needless and horrific deaths is for Assad and all parties to the conflict to adhere to international humanitarian law.
So, right now, I call on the Assad regime and all parties to the conflict to allow immediate and unfettered access to all areas of Syria, not just Madaya.
We will not stop in our fight – whether through hard work on a political solution that will deal with the root cause of this problem, or humanitarian efforts that provide immediate life-saving relief.
This shocking situation underlines the vital work of aid agencies and the importance of them knowing they have the resources to keep going, and the importance of next month’s Syria Conference in London which we are co-hosting.