The United Nations warns that besieged eastern Aleppo in northern Syria faces mass starvation this winter if U.N. aid agencies are blocked from distributing desperately needed food supplies to 250,000 trapped civilians.
The United Nations says it fears winter will be a killer in too many places throughout Syria. The international body says it has not been able to pre-position food and other relief supplies in besieged areas because of fighting and administrative hurdles.
U.N. special adviser Jan Egeland says there is particular concern about how one quarter of a million people in eastern Aleppo will survive the harsh winter months.
FILE - People remove belongings from a damaged site after an air strike Sunday in the rebel-held besieged al-Qaterji neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria, Oct. 17, 2016.
“The last time east Aleppo was reached with significant humanitarian supplies was in the beginning of July, in the middle of the summer. The report we have now from within east Aleppo is that the last food rations are being distributed as we speak.”
Egeland says the United Nations has presented a new proposal for averting a humanitarian catastrophe this winter. The initiative calls for the Russian-Syrian side and opposition groups to allow food and other urgent relief supplies into eastern Aleppo.
It also calls for the medical evacuation out of Aleppo of some 300 wounded and sick patients with their families, while permitting medical supplies and medical personnel to enter the besieged city.
Map showing control areas around the Syrain city of Aleppo, as of Oct. 13, 2016
Bracing for escalation
A pause in Russian-Syrian airstrikes over eastern Aleppo continues, although ground fighting continues unabated; but, Russia has moved heavy weaponry, including cruise missiles, off the coast of Syria and says it plans to use these weapons in the battle for Aleppo.
Egeland tells VOA he is worried about the possibility of a dangerous escalation of the war.
“I do indeed fear it could become much, much worse. It is terrible as we speak. It could get much worse.... I am hopeful that we could get our U.N. initiative going again.... I cannot see anyone wishing to see... so many civilians bleed to death in both east and west Aleppo because of indiscriminate war.”
FILE - A man reacts on the rubble of damaged buildings after losing relatives to an airstrike in the besieged rebel-held al-Qaterji neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria, Oct. 11, 2016.
Regarding the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, Egeland says he believes U.S.-Russian engagement and cooperation in tackling humanitarian and political issues in Syria will continue. He says progress has always been made in reaching besieged areas with humanitarian aid whenever the United States and Russia have pushed for this together.