Syria: UN humanitarian chief condemns attack on warehouse during aid distribution

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

25 May 2014 – The United Nations humanitarian chief today expressed outrage at a deliberate attack on a humanitarian warehouse in the Damascus province of Syria, which occurred as aid workers were preparing to distribute urgently needed supplies to hundreds of families in the besieged city.

“The targeting of the warehouse, which reportedly killed several people and wounded one Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) volunteer, is evidence of the blatant disregard for International Humanitarian Law which is a disturbing feature of the conflict in Syria,” UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said in a statement from her office (OCHA).

She added that the attack violated assurances from those involved in the conflict that they would refrain from hostilities while the joint UN/SARC convoy was on the ground.

The city of Douma, in the Eastern Ghouta area of Damascus province, has been under siege by Government forces for over 18 months. It has been nearly two months since aid workers were last able to bring supplies into the city.

“People are in desperate need of food, water, sanitation, health services and medicines,” Ms. Amos said.

The joint convoy carried food and non-food items, and medicines for the treatment of chronic diseases for up to 24,000 people. As a result of the attack distribution on site was forced to be canceled and the supplies delivered to Syrian Arab Red Crescent partners in Douma.

“Aid workers are frequently targeted or subjected to harassment in Syria,” the UN senior official said. Among recent incidents, aid workers on 8 February came under direct attack during the aid delivery and evacuation of people from the old city of Homs.

Such attacks are “utterly unacceptable and have a devastating ripple effect as they hinder the provision of aid to those in desperate need”, said Ms. Amos.

She vowed that UN agencies and our humanitarian partners will continue to look at how best they can continue to deliver life-saving aid, but they must have “sustained, predictable and safe access” throughout Syria.

Last month, Ms. Amos, joined by Anthony Lake, Executive Director of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF); Antonio Guterres at the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR); Margaret Chan of the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and Ertharin Cousin of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), issued an impassioned plea to Syrian authorities and the opposition to allow aid access, end siege warfare and halt the indiscriminate bombing of civilians in Syria.

More than 9.3 million people are affected by the crisis, now in its fourth year, with more than 2.4 million Syrian refugees registered in the region, according to recent UN figures.

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