Seven million Syrians need humanitarian aid: UN

Seven million Syrians need humanitarian aid: UN

Seven million Syrians need humanitarian aid: UN

UN says 6.8 million Syrians in need along with 4.25 million people internally displaced and an additional 1.3 million who have sought refuge in neighboring countries. REUTERS photo

Nearly seven million people need humanitarian assistance in Syria, a senior United Nations official said April 18 while criticizing Damascus for hampering aid distribution.

“The needs are growing rapidly and are most severe in the conflict and opposition-controlled areas” of the civil-war ravaged country, the global body’s under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator Valerie Amos told the U.N. Security Council.

She cited data showing there are 6.8 million people in need - out of a total population of 20.8 million - along with 4.25 million people internally displaced and an additional 1.3 million who have sought refuge in neighboring countries.

It was a rare public briefing of the Security Council on the conflict in Syria, which was called for by Australia, and Amos pleaded for the 15 council members to “take the action necessary to end this brutal conflict.” “The situation in Syria is a humanitarian catastrophe with ordinary people paying the price for the failure to end the conflict,” Amos said. “I do not have an answer for those Syrians I have spoken to who asked me why the world has abandoned them.”

The council responded by urging both the government and the opposition to cooperate with U.N. agencies. “Members of the Security Council urged all parties to ensure safe and unimpeded access for aid organizations to those in need in all areas of Syria,” they said in a statement.

Amos said that bureaucratic obstacles have grown since January, “inhibiting our ability to respond.” “The limitations on the ground have forced us to being precariously close to suspending some critical humanitarian operations. We are approaching a point of no return,” she said.

Approval for NGOs falls sharply

She said the number of approved nongovernmental organizations in Syria was recently cut from 110 to 29, and the U.N. has just been told that every truck needs a permit signed by two ministers to pass government checkpoints. “When I tell the Council that a convoy from Damascus to Aleppo goes through 50 checkpoints - half of them government controlled - you will appreciate the impossibility of this request.” “We cannot do business this way,” she said, adding that 21 visa applications are still pending, and a request to import 22 armored vehicles has still not been approved.

For his part, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, addressing the U.N. Security Council by video link, said that since February, there have been 8,000 Syrians a day fleeing across the country’s borders and at that rate the number of refugees was forecast to more than double by the end of the year to 3.5 million.

“These figures are terrifying. This is not just frightening, it risks becoming simply unsustainable. There is no way to adequately respond to the enormous humanitarian needs these figures represent,” he said. “It is difficult to imagine how a nation can endure so much suffering.” He warned of the conflict spilling over into Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq - Syria’s neighbors bearing the refugee burden and called for more international support for countries hosting refugees.