The war that has engulfed Syria and spread into Iraq has displaced 14 million people, including four million Syrian refugees scattered to neighboring countries, and it has created “host fatigue,” which has further aggravated the crisis, United Nations officials said Friday.
In remarks to the United Nations Security Council, the officials also rebuked its 15 members for what they called a failure to exert authority to intervene in the four-year-old Syria war, which has left 220,000 people dead.
The officials described the Iraqi territorial gains of the Islamic State, the Syria-based extremist group, as an unforeseen shock to an already overstretched emergency aid system.
They called the crisis in both countries a contributor to the surge of people risking death at sea to reach Europe. “One thing is clear: the situation in the region has become utterly unsustainable,”
António Guterres, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, said in remarks to the Council. He called the crisis “a cancer that risks spreading and metastasizing.”
Mr. Guterres was one of four United Nations officials who briefed the Council — the others were his agency’s celebrity global emissary, Angelina Jolie Pitt; Valerie Amos, the departing emergency relief coordinator; and Staffan de Mistura, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy for Syria.
Mr. de Mistura’s briefing was held privately. Officials at the United Nations offices in Geneva said earlier Friday that he had invited representatives of Syria’s government and opposition groups to meet with him there separately next month as part of his effort to revive peace talks.
Mr. de Mistura’s efforts, like those of the two special envoys that preceded him and resigned in frustration, have shown little sign of progress.
The remarks by Ms. Jolie Pitt, who has visited Syrian refugees 11 times since the war began, were in some ways the most eagerly anticipated because of her celebrity aura.
They were also among the harshest. “International humanitarian law prohibits torture, starvation, the targeting of schools and hospitals — but these crimes are happening every day in Syria,” she said.
“The Security Council has powers to address these threats to international peace and security — but those powers lie unused.”
Ms. Jolie Pitt, who has been a representative of United Nations causes for 13 years, also said: “We cannot look at Syria, and the evil that has arisen from the ashes of indecision, and think this is not the lowest point in the world’s inability to protect and defend the innocent.”
Many Syrian refugees, she said, had lost all hope. She invited Council members to visit them in the refugee camps of neighboring countries to “see first hand their suffering and the impact it is having on the region.”
Mr. Guterres expressed particular worry about enormous stresses imposed on Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, which have absorbed nearly all of the Syrians who have fled, echoing recent Jordanian warnings that “we are seeing a growing ‘host fatigue.’ ”
“There are increasing tensions between communities, as local families struggle harder to cope the longer the conflict drags on,” he said.
The situation in Iraq has been compounded by that country’s own surging population of displaced people. Doctors Without Borders, the medical charity, said in a statement Friday that 2.6 million Iraqis were now on the run from conflict.
Ms. Amos, in her remarks to the Council, despaired over what she described as widespread disregard for its resolutions requiring humanitarian aid access to civilians.
She said “the government, armed and terrorist groups continue to kill, maim, rape, torture and take Syria to new lows that seemed unimaginable a few years ago.” She asked the Council to take new actions that include specifically banning attacks on schools and hospitals.
By RICK GLADSTONE