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UN Official: Will Take Decades to Rebuild Syria

  • Margaret Besheer

People search for survivors in the rubble of a damaged area that activists said was a result of an airstrike by the Syrian regime, in the Al-Sukkari neighborhood in Aleppo, Syria, April 7, 2013.
The United Nations' head of humanitarian operations is warning it could take decades to rebuild Syria’s decimated infrastructure.

John Ging recently returned from Syria, where he said he found appalling suffering and “phenomenal” devastation.

He said among the worst hit cities are Aleppo in the north, a former commercial hub of the country that is now in parts a ghost town, and Deraa in the far south, where the crisis began more than two years ago when a group of teenagers scrawled anti-government graffiti on their school.

In Aleppo, Ging said the city is divided between government- and opposition-controlled areas. In regime areas, he said, there is only an hour or two of electricity daily, there is significant damage to infrastructure, but shops are open and reasonably well supplied. He said this is in stark contrast to the situation in opposition-controlled areas of the city.

“We were shocked by what we saw immediately. The streets are strewn with rubbish - it’s a public health disaster in the making,” Ging said. “They have no electricity at all. The phone network - both landline and mobile - totally cut off. Very little traffic moving around because there is almost no fuel. Also, we were told that people had water once every five days. The shops are almost empty, depleted,” said Ging.

He said the scale of the devastation caused by heavy weapons to infrastructure, schools, hospitals and homes is “quite incredible” and will take decades to rebuild. “This country is being taken back in time decades, decades. This should mobilize a realization that it has to stop now, rather than allowing it to just continue on in the direction it is going.”

Ging said the United Nations has reached an impasse with the Syrian government on access for its aid workers to cross international borders into areas held by opposition fighters, such as checkpoints between Turkey and northern Syria. He said the government will not allow them to cross these borderlines and it is inhibiting their ability to reach many of the nearly 7 million Syrians who are in dire need across the country. He urged the U.N. Security Council to direct the government to give them unfettered access by whatever secure routes are available.

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