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Middle east

Millions of Syrians desperately need aid, says UN

© AFP file picture

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-04-24

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says almost 3.5 million civilians in Syria are in a desperate situation and have virtually no access to humanitarian aid.

In a report to the Security Council circulated late Wednesday, Ban said neither side has implemented a UN resolution adopted two months ago demanding that the opposition, and especially the Syrian government, promptly allow access for humanitarian aid across conflict lines and borders.

"The security situation is deteriorating and humanitarian access to those most in need is not improving. It remains an extremely challenging environment in which to work," said the document.

Thousands of people are not getting the medical care that they need -- which Ban described as "arbitrary and unjustified" and "a clear violation of international humanitarian law".

"I must again urge the parties, and in particular the government... to honour their obligations under international humanitarian law and act now," he said in the report.

'People dying needlessly'

Rebels and government forces have refused to lift sieges of populated areas and Ban said it was "shameful that nearly quarter of a million people are being deliberately forced to live under such conditions".

He called on the government and opposition to facilitate aid access and border and combat line crossings.

"People are dying needlessly every day," his report said.

The Syrian government has allowed aid convoys to cross only one of eight border crossings identified by the United Nations as a priority, Western ambassadors reported last month.

'War escalates'

Earlier on Wednesday, five UN agencies made an impassioned call on the warring parties to allow aid deliveries countrywide, end siege warfare and halt indiscriminate attacks on civilians.

"The war escalates in many areas. The humanitarian situation deteriorates day after day," the leaders of the UN humanitarian aid office and its children's, refugee, food and health divisions said in a joint statement.

In Aleppo alone, at least one million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, but the road linking the northern city to the capital Damascus has often been cut.

In Aleppo, there are now only 40 doctors for a population of 2.5 million, where once there were more than 2,000.

And across Syria, more than 9.3 million people are now affected by the conflict which erupted in March 2011, the agencies said.

Civilians trapped in city under seige

Last week, Security Council members held three hours of consultations after UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos outlined the plight of Syrian civilians caught in fighting in Homs.

Britain and France proposed a draft formal declaration by the council to call for Syrian government forces to lift the siege, but the council failed to adopt it.

French ambassador Gérard Araud said that Russia, the key ally of Damascus, blocked the draft statement, despite Moscow's support for the February resolution on humanitarian access.

In a statement, American ambassador Samantha Power appealed "to all those UN member states with influence on Damascus to pressure the regime to return to the negotiating table."

"It is imperative that those who want to leave Homs are able to do so quickly and safely," she added.

But Syrian ambassador Bashar Jaafari told reporters at the time that only 170 civilians were trapped in Homs, alongside thousands of "terrorists" -- the regime's term for rebels. He said the civilians refused to leave.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)

Date created : 2014-04-24