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Updated On: Sunday, November 19 2017

Getting Aid to the Besieged in Syria

Content by: South-South News

24 August 2017, New York, USA | South-South News — Following a regular humanitarian meeting on Syria in Geneva, a top UN humanitarian aid adviser for that country said that now “Raqqa is the worst place to be on earth.”

Speaking to journalists on August 24, Jan Egeland, the Special Advisor to the UN Special Envoy for Syria said, “On Raqqa our urging today from the UN side to the members of the Humanitarian Task Force including the members of the coalition that is helping take/retake Raqqa is that they need to do whatever is possible to make it possible for people to escape Raqqa.” He added that “boats on the Euphrates must not be attacked, people that come out cannot risk air raids when they come and where they come”. Egeland raised the issue "if this is the time where you also announce a humanitarian pause which we did for many other places including in Aleppo.”

A humanitarian pause would allow an estimated 20,000 trapped civilians to escape from the Syrian city of Raqqa. According to the Special Advisor on Syria “conditions are very bleak inside Raqqa city and it is very hard to assist in all areas”. Raqqa is controlled since 2014 by Islamic State Fighters “who are doing their absolute best to use civilians as human shields.”

Egeland added that “there are still 11 besieged areas in Syria, still 540, 000 people live under the sustained besiegement, many more are military encircled but a besiegement is no humanitarian relief, no freedom of movement for civilians and encirclement in more than three months. Of these 11 areas eight are besieged by government of Syria forces.”

Egeland regretted that 12,000 people in Foua and Kefraya and 1,000 in Yarmuk couldn’t get aid deliveries this week. He reported that “we got facilitation letters to go last weekend, we had the trucks loaded from August 17 until yesterday, August 23. Then we were informed that there was not any more agreement between the armed men besieging these areas of how many people we could reach, go to in Foua and Kefraya and then Yarmouk and these refrigerated trucks with medicines and everything had to be off loaded.”

In Deir ez-Zor, still besieged by ISIL forces, UN and its humanitarian partners have air-dropped more than 160 times relief items.

On a general note, Jan Egeland said that “we can reach at least 300,000 people in these cross-frontline convoys every single week. Last week we reached 80,000, we could have reached nearly 4 times more people. In some of the weeks, we have been using maybe 10 % of our capacity. We are ready to reach all of them and that is what we hope in the coming weeks. Russia is interested in creating a problem-shooting cell in Damascus where the government, them and us sit and try to solve all of these problems that we have in reaching a place. There are too many hurdles, administrative, bureaucratic, security wise, etc. Hopefully that could speed things up.”

According to Egeland, most of these people living in besieged areas and most of those not reached are within an hour drive from downtown Damascus, and many of them are in the rural Ghouta area.

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