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U.N. aid chief demands access for relief
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UNITED NATIONS/GENEVA: U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos made a new demand Tuesday that the U.N. Security Council press the Syrian government to allow greater access to trapped civilians, diplomats said.

The U.N. estimates that more than 2.5 million people are in areas that the aid agencies cannot reach because of the intensity of the 32-month-old civil war.

“The brutality of this conflict is unacceptable. Even war has rules. In this conflict, the rules are not being respected,” Amos was quoted as telling a closed meeting.

“Holding civilians hostage to the conflict is not acceptable,” she added, according to diplomats at the meeting.

“The government must be convinced to allow humanitarian access,” Amos said.

Amos demanded several measures including that the Syrian government lift obstacles to issuing visas for international aid workers.

The U.N. estimates about 6.8 million Syrians need assistance with food, medical supplies and other necessities.

Amos made the demand as the U.N. said it had delivered food to 3.4 million people in Syria in November, falling short again of its monthly target of 4 million as heavy fighting kept it from reaching hungry people in contested areas.

As winter bites, the number of children in Syria deemed vulnerable and in need of assistance has nearly quadrupled from a year ago to 4.3 million, the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said.

“The scale of the humanitarian response needed for the looming winter is unprecedented,” it said in a statement.

A U.N. document obtained by Reuters last week said around 250,000 people were beyond the reach of its aid convoys, in areas besieged by Syrian government forces or rebels.

The World Food Program said it had reached eight communities in November that had been cut off for months, mainly in rural Homs and Deraa, but that it was gravely concerned about many others.

It said some areas in Damascus and in the northeasterly Hassakeh province, the scene of heavy fighting, had seen no food deliveries for six months. Residents report severe food shortages in parts of the Damascus countryside and Homs and say people are dying from lack of medical care.

“Our objective remains to reach 4 million people in December,” WFP spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told a news briefing in Geneva.

“Financial needs are increasing. We used to talk about WFP needing $30 million every week, now we need $40 million each week to cover operations inside Syria but also aid to Syrian refugees,” she said.

“A second winter in the midst of conflict is bearing down on Syrian children,” UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado told reporters.

“With the freezing cold and driving rain come particular risks to the very young, the displaced inside Syria and children living in informal settlements across the region.”

In addition to the 4.3 million children who need help inside Syria, another 1.2 million living as refugees in neighboring countries also require aid, she said.

“That is nearly 5.5 million children in need of assistance out of a preconflict population of about 9 million children.”

The International aid agency Oxfam launched a “12 Days of Giving” appeal to help refugee families in Jordan and Lebanon survive the winter months.

“Oxfam will be doing the best they can by delivering winter kits to help many of the poorest families,” said British actress Michelle Dockery of “Downton Abbey” fame, who last month visited refugees in Jordan that had fled the conflict.

“Mothers told me their children are already unable to sleep because of the cold and it is only going to get worse” with temperatures falling.

The British government said it would match public donations to the appeal.

In Syria, a plane carrying 25 tons of humanitarian aid from the Russian government arrived at Latakia airport, state news agency SANA said.

Separately, Israel has acknowledged for the first time that it was providing humanitarian aid to victims of the war. Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said that Israel was transferring food, including baby food, as well as water and other “basic needs.” He spoke during a visit to the Israeli-controlled side of the Golan Heights along the Syrian frontier. His office said aid was delivered via a third party and the project had been going on for a few months.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 04, 2013, on page 8.
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humanitarian situation / UNICEF / WFP / Syria / Israel / Valerie Amos / Syria
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