Rising levels of violence in Syria resulting in growing humanitarian needs – UN official

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, speaks to journalists on the humanitarian situation in Syria. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

4 June 2014 – The demand by the Security Council for aid access to war-torn Syria has not produced the intended result, the United Nations humanitarian chief said today, while warning that the needs of those affected are rising steadily as the conflict rages on.

In February, the Council adopted resolution 2139, which sought to address issues related to access to people in need inside Syria, the obligations by the parties to adhere to international humanitarian law, and the demilitarization of schools and hospitals.

“The resolution has not delivered what it intended,” Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos told a news conference at UN Headquarters.

“Since the Secretary-General’s last report we have seen a marked increase in the indiscriminate use of barrel bombs by the Government, mortar attacks by opposition groups, poisonous gases allegedly used against civilians, and the collective punishment of civilians.

“These are all violations of the most basic principles of international humanitarian and human rights law.”

Amid the rising levels of violence in Syria, there are 6.5 million people displaced inside the country – approximately 20 per cent of the total number of people internally displaced by conflict across the world.

In addition, 241,000 people remain under siege, and at least 2.5 million people in the city of Aleppo were deliberately deprived of water for over a week in May when armed opposition groups shut down the city’s main pumping station.

At least 90,000 people in hard-to-reach areas were denied medical assistance as a result of removal of medicines and health supplies from inter-agency convoys, Ms. Amos added.

“But with the lack of progress on the political front, the pressure and expectations placed on humanitarian actors has increased,” she noted. The UN and its partners are trying to find ways to scale up life-saving assistance throughout Syria in an “extremely complex environment,” with aid workers putting their lives on the line to assist those in need. “They are unarmed but undeterred,” she stated.

Aid agencies were only able to reach around 7 per cent of the people living in besieged areas. “It’s a stark reminder of the reality on the ground: active conflict, bureaucratic hurdles, and conditions imposed by the parties on aid delivery, which have resulted in a decline in vital help for the most vulnerable people,” Ms. Amos stated.

“Our challenge now is to keep pace and to scale up assistance to the level required.”

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