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UN Urges 'Humanitarian Pause' in Syria

  • Margaret Besheer

A civilian with his belongings walks past a Free Syrian Army fighter at the Syrian border crossing of Bab al-Hawa, at the Syrian-Turkish border, Oct. 22, 2013.

A civilian with his belongings walks past a Free Syrian Army fighter at the Syrian border crossing of Bab al-Hawa, at the Syrian-Turkish border, Oct. 22, 2013.

U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos called Friday for “humanitarian pauses” in areas of Syria under siege so that aid convoys could reach those in need and evacuate civilians caught in the conflict.

In a briefing to the U.N. Security Council, Amos, the Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said the situation in Syria is “grim and gruesome.” Fighting is intensifying across the country as winter looms, exposing civilians to more danger and hardship.

She said a unanimous call from the council three weeks ago on all parties to give unhindered access to humanitarian workers has largely gone unheeded and the U.N. and its partner agencies are still unable to reach 2.5 million people trapped in hard to reach areas.

“We immediately need humanitarian pauses in all locations where communities are being held hostage by one party or the other to the conflict to deliver food, medicine and shelter," she said. "People must be allowed to move to safer areas without fear of attack.”

Amos called on the government to lift all bureaucratic obstacles to humanitarian operations, including related to the granting of visas to aid workers.

Amos said fighting among the hundreds of armed opposition groups has made for an increasingly complex and dangerous situation on the ground, cutting off key humanitarian access routes. She noted that the kidnapping of aid workers and hijacking of aid trucks is also becoming more frequent.

“I must reiterate that without real and sustained pressure from this council on the government of Syria and opposition groups on the ground, it will be impossible to make progress,” she said.

Amos also stressed the urgent need for more funds, saying an appeal for over $1 billion remains only about half-funded as needs increase with the approaching cold.

More than 100,000 people have been killed since the conflict in Syria began more than two and half years ago. The United Nations says millions more are internally displaced or have fled to neighboring countries.

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