UN accuses Syrian government of blocking humanitarian aid | News | DW | 27.01.2017
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UN accuses Syrian government of blocking humanitarian aid

The holdups in aid have been due to the Syrian government's overly complex approval process, a UN official said. However, he praised the ongoing ceasefire as 'a glimmer of hope.'

What in essence should be a simple, two-step approval process allowing humanitarian aid convoys to enter Syrian conflict zones " has become, in practice, a 10-step process," the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O'Brien told the Security Council this week.

"We continue to be blocked at every turn, by lack of approvals at central and local levels, disagreements on access routes, and violation of agreed procedures at checkpoints by parties to the conflict," he added, broadening his critique to also indict non-governmental participants in Syria's ongoing warfare.

Staggering numbers in need

In December 2016, the UN requested governmental approval to assist 930,250 individuals in besieged areas. Though Syrian governmental officials did respond to the organization's plans within the agreed-upon seven-working-days timeframe, "administrative delays on the part of the government" obstructed delivery efforts. As a result, humanitarian aid reached only 6,000 civilians that month, and only after over 23,000 medical items had been removed from the convoy.

Syrien Mann versorgt sich an Essensausgabe in Aleppo (REUTERS/A. Ismail)

Aid has reached only a fraction of those in need

Thus far in January, despite a nearly one-month old ceasefire, the UN has not had greater success in delivering aid and assistance. A single convoy reached 40,000 individuals in the locality of Muadamiya, a mere fraction of those in need. O'Brien noted that assistance to that area was requested in last November's plan. 

According to the organization's latest statistics, around 644,000 people are currently living in 13 besieged areas, a decrease from the previous month due to the evacuation of rebel-held eastern Aleppo.

O'Brien expressed concern on Thursday over the stockpiled humanitarian supplies found in the area which government forces regained control over in late December. He indicated that the UN was looking into the issue further.

Some 9 million people hungry

The UN World Food Program also participated in the session before the Security Council and highlighted Syria's continually worsening food situation. It reported 9 million Syrians were in need of food and sustenance, the agency said. Food production remains at minimal levels due to the unstable situation and infrastructure damage inflicted over the course of the ongoing, six-year-long civil war.

Only a political solution will put an end to the country's humanitarian crisis, O'Brien concluded, as he appealed to the Council to support upcoming UN-led negotiations.

cmb/jm (AP, EFE)

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