UN aims to send aid to all besieged Syria areas within a week
GENEVA – Agence France-Presse
AP photoThe United Nations should be able to deliver aid to all of Syria’s 18 besieged areas within a week, a senior U.N. official said Feb. 18, after life-saving supplies reached five locations.
Jan Egeland, who is the special advisor to the U.N.’s Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, made the comments after a meeting of representatives from the 17-nation International Syria Support Group (ISSG).
“We discussed the next phase which is to reach all of the remaining besieged areas of Syria. And we should be able to do [so] before the next meeting which will be in a week,” Egeland said.
Egeland said that there was plan to deliver aid by air drops to the eastern city Deir Ezzor, the majority of which is controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and where an estimated 200,000 people still live.
The U.N. official said the World Food Program “has now a concrete plan” to conduct humanitarian air drops over the city and that this prospective operation has the support of both the United States and Russia.
“It’s a complicated operation and would be in many ways the first of its kind,” Egeland was quoted as saying by Reuters, giving no details of the air operation which is far more costly than land convoys.
Russian cargo planes reportedly delivered humanitarian aid to regime-held neighborhoods in Deir Ezzor last week.
Egeland said the just concluded mission to five besieged areas included 114 trucks and delivered supplies to an estimated 80,000 people. Truckloads of aid reached Madaya, Zabadani and Mouadamiya al-Sham near Damascus which have been under siege by government forces, and the villages of al-Foua and Kefraya in Idlib province, which are surrounded by rebel fighters.
The operation was made possible by a deal struck at an ISSG meet in Munich last week, where many of the key actors in the Syrian conflict, including Damascus ally Russia, agreed to increase humanitarian access.
The Syrian government approved access to seven besieged areas after crisis talks in Damascus on Feb. 16 between de Mistura and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.
The ISSG also reached Feb. 12 a deal on a cessation of hostilities in Syria, but its prospects appear grim amid continued fighting.
The UN estimates that there are more than 480,000 Syrians living in areas besieged by the government, rebels and jihadist forces.
More than four million others are living in what the U.N. defines as “hard-to-reach” areas.
“The people of Syria ... have waited too long for relief,” Egeland told reporters following the meeting in Geneva.