The United Nations says the Syrian government is not allowing aid agencies to deliver life-saving humanitarian relief to hundreds of thousands of people living in several besieged areas in the country.
The special advisor to the U.N.’s special envoy for Syria, Jan Egeland, is calling on the United States, Russia and other nations of influence to pressure President Bashar al-Assad's government into giving U.N. agencies the green light to deliver this critical aid.
He said the U.N. has succeeded in distributing aid to 150,000 people in 11 besieged cities since an agreement was worked out in Munich six weeks ago, allowing U.N. access to Syrians in hard-to-reach areas.
Egeland said he fears the momentum after Munich, which has made these deliveries possible, is being lost. He said the government needs to become more compliant for the U.N. to achieve its goal of assisting nearly 1 million people by the end of April.
“I am still hopeful, but then we need to make more progress than we did over the last week, which was not a good week for us in Syria,” he said.
FILE - Children stand along a street as an aid convoy of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and United Nations drives through the rebel-held besieged city of Douma, on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria, Feb. 23, 2016.
Medical services needed
Egeland said he is particularly concerned about the U.N.'s inability to provide medical services to the people in besieged areas, saying surgical equipment is still being taken off aid convoys. He added that medical personnel cannot go into these blockaded areas and that medical evacuations are not allowed to take place.
Egeland noted this is having grave consequences for the population. He said three children in Madaya have bled to death in the last 72 hours. While they were gravely wounded playing by an unexploded bomb, he said they did not have to die.
“They died because a medical evacuation was not allowed, was not possible to organize and it happened over the last days and it should not have taken place. Those children should have been alive today,” he said.
Egeland said the technical problems that caused a planned airdrop of food into the besieged area of Deir Ezzour a few weeks ago should be straightened out in a couple of weeks. After that, he said the U.N. should be able to reach a majority of the 200,000 people living in this Islamic State stronghold.