The U.N.'s humanitarian chief called attention Monday to the impact that the ongoing conflict in Syria is having on civilians in the country and the risk it poses to stability in the Middle East.
Stephen O'Brien said at the close of a three-day visit to Syria that he hoped in following meetings with officials that concrete steps would be taken to boost humanitarian aid efforts in the country where U.N. figures show more than 12 million people need help.
But he focused on the effects of the violence in Syria, including what he called "inestimable human suffering" in the city of Homs and Sunday's airstrikes by Syrian forces that killed 96 people and wounded more than 200 near Damascus.
"Attacks on civilians are unlawful, unacceptable and must stop," O'Brien said. "I am particularly appalled about reports of yesterday's airstrikes, causing scores of civilian deaths and hundreds injured, right in the center of Douma, a besieged part of Damascus. I am horrified by the total disrespect for civilian life in this conflict. I appeal to each and every party to this protracted conflict to protect civilians and respect international humanitarian law."
The Syrian crisis began in March 2011 and has since left an estimated 250,000 people dead. The fighting has forced more than 4 million Syrians refugees to flee to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt where many of those communities have struggled to provide services with so many added people. Inside of Syria, the conflict has displaced another 7.6 million people, millions of whom have been away from their homes for several years.
O'Brien reiterated U.N. calls for the world to help fund efforts to get food, shelter, health care, education and other services to those within Syria and the Syrian refugees. The U.N. says it has so far received funding to cover 30 percent of its appeal for about $7.5 billion this year to meet those needs.