Syria: UN humanitarian chief urges pause in fighting to allow access to trapped civilians

Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos talks to refugee children living in a school in Damascus during a visit to Syria in August 2012. Photo: OCHA/Ben Parker

13 September 2013 – As fighting between Syrian Government and opposition forces continue to intensify, the United Nations humanitarian chief today called on all sides to agree to a pause in the hostilities so that relief agencies could gain “immediate and unhindered access” to evacuate desperate civilians trapped in towns and cities increasingly under siege.

“I am extremely worried by reports that more than half a million people remain trapped in Rural Damascus,” Valerie Amos said in a statement, noting, for example that the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is receiving “very disturbing reports” from the town of Moadamyieh, which is just a few kilometres from the capital

“It is reported that the town has been besieged for the last 10 months, suffering daily shelling and armed clashes between Government and opposition groups,” says Ms. Amos, adding that UN humanitarian agencies have been unable to deliver supplies for nearly a year, despite repeated attempts, due to security constraints.

Most of the 70,000 population of the area has fled but some 12,000 people remain trapped, unable to get enough food for their families. There are cases of severe malnutrition among children, as well as the spread of skin and respiratory diseases, she said.

As the “horrendous” crisis has continued to deepen with civilians being targeted or denied access to food and emergency medical treatment in many places across Syria, Ms. Amos urged all parties to agree a pause in hostilities to allow humanitarian agencies immediate and unhindered access to evacuate the wounded and provide life-saving treatment and supplies in areas where fighting is ongoing. “Civilians must be allowed to move to safer areas,” she said.

“I would remind the Government and other parties to this conflict once again that they have an obligation under international human rights and international humanitarian law to protect civilians and allow neutral, impartial humanitarian organizations safe access to all people in need,” she said.


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