15 Jun 2017
Aid access by land to hundreds of thousands of besieged civilians in Syria has been blocked for more than 40 days – a first in the years-long conflict, a top humanitarian coordinator said on Thursday.
Special Adviser to the UN Jan Egeland told journalists in Geneva that the last time aid trucks had made a delivery was in early May to Duma, east of the capital Damascus.
He also said that the humanitarian situation in the ISIL-held city of Raqqa “could not be worse” as opposition Syrian forces continue their assault, and that things were “equally bad” in Dar’a governorate.
Daniel Johnson has more.
The Syrian conflict has lasted longer than the Second World War but it still has the capacity to shock, Humanitarian Task Force coordinator Jan Egeland told journalists in Geneva:
“We have not had a 40-day period before without access by land to any besieged area and it happened today.”
More than 600,000 people are in dire need in Syria’s 13 besieged zones, despite the fact that aid trucks are loaded and ready to go and warehouses are full, Mr Egeland said.
He added that “courageous” aid workers were risking their lives to get through to Syria’s besieged communities, but they were being prevented from doing so by so-called “bureaucratic impediments”, infighting among armed groups and a lack of clearance from the government.
A fresh attempt to reach besieged communities in Homs and Hama was being made ready, Mr Egeland indicated, and aid teams will also try to enter Eastern Ghouta outside Damascus at the weekend.
In Deir-Ez-Zor in the east, where ISIL is laying siege to the city, Mr Egeland said that aid would continue to be air-dropped in and efforts stepped up to treat a “very dangerous” polio outbreak.
In Raqqa meanwhile, the UN Special Adviser said that tens of thousands of people are still trapped inside the ISIL-held city amid “intense bombardment” from the air, as Syrian opposition forces continue their assault.
The situation could not be worse inside Raqqa city, Mr Egeland said, before adding that things were “equally bad” in Dar’a governorate in the south, where there have been reports of barrel bombs and attacks on Dar’a city and the destruction of hospitals.
Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva