Monday 16 December 2019

UN agency chiefs say world 'must not stand silent' amid call over Syria

A Syrian refugee holds her son at the entrance of her shelter at a refugee camp in Greece (AP/Muhammed Muheisen)
A Syrian refugee holds her son at the entrance of her shelter at a refugee camp in Greece (AP/Muhammed Muheisen)

The heads of major UN organisations have called for access to civilians cut off from humanitarian aid in Syria, saying the world "must not stand silent" even though the siege of Aleppo is over.

The joint appeal from the UN's refugee agency, humanitarian aid co-ordinator the OCHA, children's agency Unicef, the World Food Programme and the World Health Organisation called for "immediate, unconditional and safe access" to all Syrian families and children in need.

According to the statement, up to 700,000 people - nearly half of them children - live in 15 besieged areas of Syria.

Many lack "the most basic elements to sustain their lives" and face "continued risk of violence", said the statement, which came from Davos in Switzerland, where business, political, cultural elites and non-governmental group leaders are gathering for the World Economic Forum.

The WFP's Ertharin Cousin, Anthony Lake of Unicef, Stephen O'Brien of the OCHA, the WHO's Margaret Chan and Filippo Grandi of the UNHCR were in essence striving to keep international attention focused on the nearly six-year civil war in Syria, which has by some estimates left half a million people dead.

Last month, Russian air power helped forces supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad crush the opposition-held enclave in the northern city of Aleppo, a major win for Assad's forces, which had besieged the rebels for months.

"The horrors of the siege of the eastern districts of Aleppo have disappeared from the public consciousness - but we must not let the needs, the lives and the futures of Syria's people fade from the world's conscience," the UN agency chiefs said in the statement.

"We must not let 2017 repeat the tragedies of 2016 for Syria," they said.


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