Civil War and COVID-19: How the UN and Humanitarian NGOs are Saving Lives in Syria (Global Engagement Online Series)

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11:00 am


Zoom Online Event



After nearly ten years of civil war in Syria, the United Nations and partner NGOs remain on the ground to deliver assistance to Syrians in need. During this GEOS session, hear from Mr. Kevin Kennedy, Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Crisis in Syria, Ms. Sanjana Quazi, UN Humanitarian Affairs Officer for Syria and Mr. Husni Al-Barazi, Founder of the Big Heart Foundation. Together, through the lens of the impact of COVID-19, they will provide insight into the humanitarian operations and challenges in Syria.

Featured Speakers:

Kevin Kennedy, Regional Humanitarian Coordinator (RHC) for the Syria Crisis, OCHA

Mr. Kevin Kennedy has served as the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Crisis in Syria since January 2020. He has extensive experience organizing the international community’s response to humanitarian emergencies worldwide at the strategic, policy, and field levels.  He has served as a senior UN official in Somalia, Haiti, Iraq, the Sudan, Timor-Leste, the Balkans, Pakistan and the Occupied Palestinian Territories as well as leading numerous UN missions to Africa, Asia and the South Pacific. Additional assignments include heading the UN Hurricane Katrina team and as the UN support officer to President George H.W. Bush in his capacity as Special Envoy for the Quake in Southeast Asia.

At UN headquarters, he served in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) as the Director of the Coordination and Response Division for nine years as well as the Acting Head of the Department of Safety and Security at the rank of Under Secretary-General.

A national of the United States and Ireland, he has a Bachelor’s degree from West Chester University and Masters’ degrees from The George Washington University and the U.S. Naval War College.

Prior to joining the UN, he served as an infantry officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, retiring at the rank of Colonel.  He served at various duty stations in the U.S., at sea and overseas to include Vietnam, Lebanon, Somalia, and was the Commanding Officer of 2d Battalion, 5th Marines in the liberation of Kuwait during the Gulf War.


Sanjana Quazi, Deputy Head of Office, Regional Office for the Syria Crisis, OCHA

Ms. Sanjana Quazi has served as the Deputy Head of Office in the OCHA Regional Office for the Syria Crisis since April 2019. She returned to the Syrian crisis after experiencing it during the early years of the conflict from 2013 to 2015.

She has extensive experience in coordinating humanitarian response and advocacy efforts.  Her first UN field posting was in Afghanistan and thereafter she worked in different parts of the world, with a focus on the Middle East and North Africa, having covered Iraq, Iran, oPt, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, Sudan, Jordan and Syria.  In addition to OCHA, she has worked both in the field and in HQ on strategic, policy and operational issues in the following UN agencies and secretariat departments:  UNDP, World Bank, IFAD, DPKO, SG’s office and UNICEF.  In UNICEF, she was the Senior Advisor for Humanitarian Partnerships and Financing in New York, overseeing the organization’s global humanitarian funding portfolio.

Prior to joining the UN, she served in BRAC, a national NGO in Bangladesh, where she managed a project that developed the first all-encompassing Information Education Communication tool addressing health issues used nation-wide through primary health care facilities and community-based programmes.   She also worked for the private sector — Mercer Management Consulting — where she supported the development of a strategy for change management policy for the company.

A national of Bangladesh, she has a Bachelor’s degree from Tufts University and a Masters’ degree from Columbia University, both in the United States.


Husni Al-Barazi, Founder, Big Heart, Syria

Al-Barazi led a successful private sector career as a frontier market entrepreneur, founded private ventures across the Middle East, Africa, and the Americas, held executive roles at a FTSE100 multinational, and was educated at the University of California Berkeley with a degree in Economics, before founding Big Heart in 2013 in response to the worsening Syrian conflict. Al-Barazi is a relentless advocate of the humanitarian plight of Syrians, and Big Heart is committed to a sustained presence in Syria, playing a leadership role in the durable recovery of Syrian communities.

Big Heart is a U.S.-registered 501(c)3 non-profit, non-religious, non-political humanitarian organisation established to provide targeted, transparent, and impartial assistance, and to prevent and alleviate human suffering. Al-Barazi has unparalleled experience managing large-scale logistics and supply chain operations in a warzone. Big Heart’s logistics team navigates the world’s most challenging and dangerous operational environment, conveying aid into the conflict zone, providing food, shelter, water, sanitation, hygiene, and education to displaced Syrians in local communities. Involved in the Geneva Peace Process, Big Heart was selected to represent Syrian NGOs at the 73rd and 74th UN General Assemblies in 2018 and 2019, in addition to numerous other governmental, non-governmental, EU and UN fora.

Big Heart Foundation Quick Snapshot

– Delivered over $135 million in aid since June 2013

– Operations across northern Syria and northern Iraq since conflict started: Hama, Idleb, and Aleppo governorates in northern Syria; Kurdistan Region and Nineveh Province in northern Iraq

– Served more than 3 million beneficiaries

– 228 staff; 17 warehouses, 3 large depots, 5 offices in Syria


– Partners: Save the Children, IRC, GOAL, People in Need, Welt Hunger Hilfe, GIZ, Mercy Corps


Helpful background information:

Syria Humanitarian Response Overview from Jan to Mar 2020

COVID-19 Update No. 6

Brussels Humanitarian Need and Response