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UN: Syrian Government Uses Aid as Weapon of War

  • Lisa Schlein

Residents arrive on foot to inspect their homes in the al-Hamdeya neighborhood, after the cessation of fighting between rebels and forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in Homs city, Syria, May 9, 2014.

Residents arrive on foot to inspect their homes in the al-Hamdeya neighborhood, after the cessation of fighting between rebels and forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in Homs city, Syria, May 9, 2014.

A senior United Nations official accuses the Syrian government of using humanitarian aid as a tactical weapon of war. The official says the conflict, which started more than three years ago, is becoming dramatically worse with no place in Syria untouched by death and destruction.

The United Nations reports 9.6 million people inside Syria are affected by the war and the number is growing. It says 6.5 million are internally displaced. More than 2.7 million have fled to refuge in neighboring countries.

The director of operations for the Organization for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, John Ging, said 5,000 people are being killed every month, and more than 150,000 people already have died since the war began.

"We are becoming numb to the scale and the extent of the brutality of this conflict on ordinary people," said Ging. "We are at the limit of what we can do. We are at the limit. Our colleagues are putting their lives on the line. Our colleagues are losing their lives in this conflict and yet we cannot reach millions."

Ging said people in the country have run out of coping mechanisms. Public facilities, like education, health and other services, are collapsing. He said people are reduced to the very basics of survival.

He said U.N. aid agencies are having great difficulty helping 3.5 million people living in hard to reach areas. He said there is great concern about the well-being of more than 240,000 civilians in besieged areas.

Ging noted that the number of people wounded in this long-running war is escalating, but he said they are not receiving the treatment they desperately need. He said medical supplies are being removed from convoys as part of a strategy to deny the wounded medical care. He called this an abomination and put the blame on the Syrian government under President Bashar al-Assad..

"Denying humanitarian access is a tactic in this conflict and starvation, increasing the misery of those in places that are besieged, places that are denied access to humanitarian assistance is a tactic that is being utilized and it is not acceptable," he said. "In terms of who are taking the medical supplies out of the convoys, it is the government of Syria."

Ging is appealing to the international community for support. He said people need outside help to get food, water, medical care, and other essential supplies. He said aid agencies are doing their best, but there is only so much they can do without money. And that, he said, is dwindling by the day.

The U.N. has launched a record $6.5-billion humanitarian appeal to aid Syrians inside the country and refugees in neighboring countries of asylum. Less than one-fourth has been received.

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