UN: Hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­cess to needy in Syria wors­en­ing

Business Mirror - - THE WORLD - AP

UNITED NA­TIONS—Ac­cess to mil­lions of Syr­i­ans in need of help is wors­en­ing as vi­o­lence in­creases across the war-torn coun­try, the United Na­tions (UN) hu­man­i­tar­ian chief warned on Friday, and the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil announced it would for­mally ask Damascus to al­low air drops to be­sieged ar­eas.

Stephen O’Brien said he told a closed emer­gency coun­cil meet­ing that re­cent at­tacks “are cre­at­ing new hu­man­i­tar­ian emer­gen­cies and com­pound­ing the challenges,” as ac­cess con­tin­ues to be de­nied to some be­sieged lo­ca­tions where needs are most acute.

The five-year- old civil war in Syria has killed some 250,000 peo­ple, dis­placed mil­lions and left vast swaths of the coun­try in ru­ins, en­abling the Is­lamic State ( IS) ex­trem­ist group to take con­trol of large ar­eas of the coun­try.

A Rus­sia- and US- bro­kered truce be­gan on Fe­bru­ary 27, but fight­ing has con­tin­ued to rage in many ar­eas. While the United Na­tions con­tin­ues to pro­vide aid to mil­lions of Syr­i­ans ev­ery month, O’Brien said it needs ac­cess and “the con­sent of the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment and all nec­es­sary se­cu­rity guar­an­tees, in or­der to con­duct air drops.”

The In­ter­na­tional Syria Sup­port Group (ISSG), a coali­tion of world pow­ers known as the ISSG, had called for the UN World Food Pro­gram ( WPF) to uni­lat­er­ally de­liver food to be­sieged Syr­i­ans start­ing on June 1 if ac­cess wasn’t granted by the gov­ern­ment. France’s UN Am­bas­sador François De­lat­tre, the cur­rent Se­cu­rity Coun­cil pres­i­dent, said the UN “will ask Damascus to au­tho­rize hu­man­i­tar­ian air drops to reach lo­cal­i­ties for which land ac­cess was de­nied by the Syr­ian regime.”

He said Syria’s au­tho­riza­tion of some aid con­voys to be­sieged towns is “at best a drop in the ocean.”

“We have not been fooled by the Syr­ian regime’s ploy to au­tho­rize cer­tain con­voys which turn out to be empty of food or medicine or both,” De­lat­tre said. “There is a strong mo­men­tum here in the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, a strong pres­sure on the Syr­ian regime, to say ‘enough is enough.’”

Syria’s UN Am­bas­sador Bashar Ja’afari in­sisted that “hu­man­i­tar­ian aid has never been de­nied by the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment to any part of the coun­try.” He dis­missed “base­less al­le­ga­tions” by some coun­cil members that the gov­ern­ment is hin­der­ing de­liv­er­ies to cer­tain ar­eas and in­sisted the coun­cil meet­ing was an at­tempt “to de­mo­nize the gov­ern­ment” and ex­ert “po­lit­i­cal pres­sure” ahead of the next round of talks aimed at end­ing the war. Ja’afari, Syria’s chief ne­go­tia­tor at the peace talks, re­fused to say whether Syria would au­tho­rize air drops. The Syr­ian gov­ern­ment announced late on Thurs­day that it ap­proved the de­liv­ery of aid to 36 “restive ar­eas” and par­tial de­liv­er­ies to eight other ar­eas in June.

The United Na­tions had re­quested ac­cess to 34 lo­ca­tions to help 1.1 mil­lion peo­ple and Syria ap­proved 23 re­quests in full and six par­tially, and re­jected five, UN hu­man­i­tar­ian Spokesman Amanda Pitt said.

O’Brien, the un­der­sec­re­tary­gen­eral for hu­man­i­tar­ian af­fairs, said the UN needs “full ap­proval” of its June re­quest.

That re­quest in­cluded all 19 lo­ca­tions of­fi­cially des­ig­nated as be­sieged ar­eas ex­cept Yar­mouk, which is cov­ered by the UN agency for Pales­tinian refugees, and Deir el-Zour, which is un­der siege by IS ex­trem­ists and is al­ready re­ceiv­ing air­drops, Pitt said.

Of the 17 be­sieged lo­ca­tions that the UN sought to send aid, Pitt said Syria ap­proved 12 re­quests in full and three par­tially—Moad­amiyeh, Daraya and Douna, where it ap­proved med­i­cal as­sis­tance, school sup­plies and milk for chil­dren.

Syria re­jected UN re­quests to send aid to Zabadani, a moun­tain re­sort which has been be­sieged by gov­ern­ment forces and Le­banon’s Hezbol­lah fight­ers since last year, and Waer, the last rebel- held neigh­bor­hood in the cen­tral city of Homs, Pitt said.

O’Brien said the UN has been able to reach 40 per­cent of the 592,700 peo­ple in be­sieged ar­eas. But he said only two be­sieged lo­ca­tions were reached by land in May, a sign of the po­ten­tial im­por­tance of air drops, which are more dif­fi­cult and costly.

WFP said it is “ac­ti­vat­ing” its air- de­liv­ery plan fol­low­ing a re­quest from the ISSG, which is led by the US and Rus­sia. But it stressed the need for au­tho­riza­tions and fund­ing first.

The UN food agency said late on Thurs­day that 15 be­sieged ar­eas would re­quire he­li­copter op­er­a­tions for air drops if land ac­cess is not granted. High- al­ti­tude air drops are tak­ing place in Deir el-Zour and would be pos­si­ble in two other vil­lages, it said.

Rus­sia’s UN Am­bas­sador Vi­taly Churkin, Syria’s close ally, said Moscow is look­ing at “all pos­si­bil­i­ties,” in­clud­ing air drops, if they are ef­fec­tive. But he strongly crit­i­cized un­named coun­cil members for try­ing to make hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­cess a pre­con­di­tion for peace ne­go­ti­a­tions, call­ing this “an im­moral po­si­tion.”

1.1M The num­ber of Syr­i­ans whom the United Na­tions deems need ac­cess for aid

ICRC VIA AP

THE first hu­man­i­tar­ian aid con­voy in Daraya, Syria, on June 1. A be­sieged sub­urb of Syria’s cap­i­tal re­ceived hu­man­i­tar­ian aid on Wed­nes­day for the first time since 2012.

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