Senior United Nations relief officials on Thursday urged the UN Security Council to do more to ensure the delivery of life-saving aid to civilians in the besieged and hard-to-reach areas. They warned that aid workers are “blocked at every turn” while some 4.6 million people live in hard-to-reach areas across the war-ravaged country. In addition, an estimated 644,000 people live in 13 areas under siege in the country.
The UN humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien has accused the Assad regime of blocking aid to hundreds of thousands of the country’s most needy people, despite a nationwide ceasefire that has given “a glimmer of hope” that the conflict might be coming to an end.
“The fault is not at the door of the UN or the non-governmental organizations; it is the Syrian Government and the governors,” Mr. O’Brien told the Council in a briefing alongside senior officials from the World Food Program and the World Health Organization.
“We need to be allowed to pass not as a favor but as a right.”
While the figure of those trapped in the besieged areas down from last year, “it should not be mistaken for progress,” the senior UN official stressed.
“Despite high rates of in-principle approvals, only one or two approved convoys have reached their destinations in each of the last three months. In December, one – just one – inter-agency convoy delivered assistance to 6,000 people out of a total of 930,250 people requested under the December inter-agency convoy plan,” O’Brien added.
On the Wadi Barada valley, just outside of Damascus city, it said fighting has already displaced an estimated 17,500 people. “Water remains cut-off from the main source since the fighting began, affecting the primary water supply for some 5.5 million people in Damascus and surrounding areas, who now only have minimal access to water.”
Of great concern to the UN was the city of Deir Ezzor, which remained inaccessible since its fall to the ISIS extremist group in 2014, and where 90,000 civilians were struggling to survive.
Regime forces and their allied foreign militias continue to lay siege on many rebel-held areas across Syria despite the truce which took effect on December 29, 2016.
The Syrian Coalition earlier stressed that the Assad regime’s blocking of aid convoys to the besieged areas is a war crime. It called on the UN aid agencies to carry out their duties and not to acquiesce to the restrictive procedures imposed by the Assad regime. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office of + Agencies)