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UN aid chief says Syria aid appeal making little difference

A UN aid chief has told the Security Council that its recent attempts to ease Syria's humanitarian crisis have made little difference. The government and rebel fighters have done little to facilitate aid efforts.

The Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, said Friday that the Security Council was not properly addressing Syria's more than two-year civil war, which has killed some 100,000 people and created over 2 million refugees.

Earlier this month the 15-member council approved a non-binding statement appealing for more humanitarian aid. Unlike the council's demand days earlier that the Syrian government eliminate its chemical weapons arsenal, the aid statement was nonbinding and Amos said the regime and rebels alike were mostly ignoring it.

"As we deliberate, people continue to die unnecessarily," she said. "I call upon the members of the council to exert influence and take the necessary action to stop this brutality and violence."

Supply routes cut off

Key aid supply routes remain inaccessible, said Amos, leaving 2.5 million people cut off, many for more than a year. She added that the government and rebels have not made efforts to provide more access to those routes.

Amos warned the humanitarian crisis in Syria will get worse during the winter, and that diseases were already spreading due to lack of basic hygiene and access to vaccinations. Kidnappings of humanitarian workers and the seizure of aid trucks were also on the rise and "last week we had a convoy that was ready to go, but we could not get enough drivers as they fear for their lives," she said.

The 100 pending visas for UN staff and other workers, and the continued requirement for written approval of humanitarian convoys and other missions, was unacceptable, said Amos.

"There is simply no reason why humanitarian staff, whose only interest is to help those in desperate need, have not been granted visas to scale up our operations," she said.

"Words, despite their ability to shock, cannot really paint a picture of the grim and gruesome reality of Syria today," Amos said. "I am extremely disappointed that we have not been able to make further progress."

Calling for action

Britain's Ambassador, Mark Lyall, said that if the council's aid statement "is not being taken seriously, then obviously it behooves us to look at stronger vehicles, including a resolution."

US State Department officials called on Russia to urge its ally, the Syrian government, to allow more humanitarian aid into the country. Russia, meanwhile, pointed out that problems also lie with the US-backed rebel factions.

"I'm very pleased that this time more and more members of the Security Council said that they are now realizing that the problem is not only with the government," said Russia's Ambassador Vitaly Churkin. "Very often various armed opposition groups are ignoring the norms of international humanitarian law."

dr/ch (Reuters, AP)