News / Middle East

UN Makes Renewed Effort to Help Struggling Syrians

A man carries a bag as he walks along damaged houses in Duma neighbourhood in Damascus, Syria, Oct. 1, 2013.
A man carries a bag as he walks along damaged houses in Duma neighbourhood in Damascus, Syria, Oct. 1, 2013.
Margaret Besheer
The United Nations humanitarian chief says new action from the Security Council could help aid workers in Syria assist more than 2 million people in urgent need who have been unreachable for months.

The U.N. Security Council adopted what is known as a "Presidential Statement" Wednesday, urging the Syrian authorities to take immediate steps to facilitate the expansion of humanitarian relief operations in the country. It is a step below a legally binding resolution, but carries the weight of all 15 council members.

U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said humanitarian workers need full and sustained access to reach every person in need, wherever they are in Syria, and they must be protected to do their work safely.

“If the commitments and practical steps in this statement are implemented, humanitarian workers will be able reach over 2 million people who have been unreachable for many months,” she said.

Only 12 aid organizations are currently authorized to operate in Syria.  The U.N. says entire suburbs and towns have been deliberately overwhelmed or cut off by fighting.  Dozens of checkpoints block main roads between towns and cities and bureaucratic impediments have hindered aid delivery to millions in dire need.

The humanitarian situation has been of concern for months, but action had been delayed by the overall paralysis in the Security Council.

That stalemate was broken on Friday, when the permanent members reached agreement on a deal for Syria to put its chemical weapons arsenal under international supervision.

The humanitarian statement was drafted by council members Luxembourg and Australia. Australian Ambassador Gary Quinlan told reporters after its adoption that there was “a need for speed” on this issue.

“We know that the regional impact is enormous, it is really potentially quite catastrophic, but the humanitarian situation inside Syria itself simply cannot be underestimated. …. Over one-third of the housing has been destroyed; and over 2 million refugees - 1 million of whom are children," he said. "One refugee is created in Syria every 15 seconds.  Since we have been speaking this morning, there are another 11 refugees in Syria.”

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said the council statement aims to facilitate access for humanitarian relief to all parts of Syria.

“It calls on them expedite visas and permits for humanitarian personnel and convoys, to facilitate humanitarian access - including across conflict lines and across borders - and to assure their security," he said. "And it urges all parties to demilitarize medical facilities, schools and water stations.”

The United Nations is also facing a $3 billion funding gap for its humanitarian work in Syria.  Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked Kuwait to hold another donors' conference early next year to try to meet that shortfall.

The crisis in Syria has killed more than 100,000 people, displaced more than 4 million people inside the country and sent 2 million more fleeing to neighboring countries.

You May Like

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid