The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Monday called for unimpeded and unconditional access to children in the besieged city of Deir Ezzor, noting that those children have not received regular humanitarian aid for more than two years.
According to UNICEF, children in Deir Ezzor have come under intense attack in the past week, and indiscriminate shelling by regime forces and the ISIS militants has reportedly killed scores of civilians and forced others to remain in their homes.
The escalation of violence threatens the lives of 93,000 civilians, including over 40,000 children who have been cut off from regular humanitarian aid for over two years, said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF’s Regional Director, in a statement.
In addition, food prices have skyrocketed to levels five to ten times higher than in the capital, Damascus, and chronic water shortages are forcing families to fetch untreated water from the Euphrates River, exposing children to the risk of waterborne diseases.
Deir Ezzor city has been subjected to two-fold siege by regime forces and the ISIS extremist group for over two years. Regime forces prevent civilians in the parts under their control, namely the neighborhoods of Jura, Qusour, and Harabish from leaving. ISIS, on the other hand, prevents the introduction of basics to these parts of the city.
Thousands of Syrians last Friday took to the streets of many towns and villages in the liberated areas to show solidarity with Dier Ezzor city. The demonstrations, held under the theme, “Deir Ezzor: on both sides of death,” were aimed to highlight the enormous suffering residents of the city are subjected to as a result of the siege and criminal practices by the Assad regime and ISIS.
In addition to suffering resulting from the siege, residents in the city are caught in a vicious circle of shelling by regime forces and the ISIS extremist group. Russian and Assad regime jets bomb ISIS-held areas; ISIS responds by shelling the regime-held parts of the city.
Last week, the United Nations announced it was suspending airdrops of humanitarian aid to civilians trapped in the regime-held neighborhoods due to the intensified fighting. This decision further increased the suffering of civilians amid severe shortages of food.
Civic institutions and activists in Deir Ezzor last week called upon the UN Security Council to protect civilians and spare them the airstrikes targeting ISIS. They stressed that the presence of ISIS in the province must not justify attacks on civilians or consider them a social base for the ISIS extremist group. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office + Agencies)