Migrants stand behind a fence near the Kastanies border gate at the Greek-Turkish border, March 2, 2020.
Migrants stand behind a fence near the Kastanies border gate at the Greek-Turkish border, March 2, 2020.

Humanitarian relief operations are overwhelmed by the nearly one million people who have recently fled from violence in northwestern Syria, the United Nations' aid chief said Tuesday, repeating his calls for a cease-fire.  

U.N. Undersecretary-General Mark Lowcock made the assessment after he and other U.N. officials inspected relief efforts along the Turkish border and conducted an assessment mission in Idlib province.

"Our inter-agency mission into Idlib yesterday was a crucial step to support on-going relief efforts in northwest Syria," Lowcock said in a statement. "It gave U.N. humanitarian agencies a chance to gather first-hand, detailed information about humanitarian needs on the ground and about how best to protect civilians."

Internally displaced Syrian children from Idlib, are seen inside a tent in Azaz, Syria February 22, 2020. Picture taken…
Millions of Civilians Face Humanitarian Catastrophe in Idlib, Syria
Nearly one third of three million civilians trapped in Idlib have been forced to flee their homes, leading to unprecedented level of displacement

He said the mission found people living in fear of bombings and fighting, and in need of adequate shelter, food, sanitation, basic health services and protection.  

Lowcock said the United Nations is pursuing every option to assist the 2.8 million people in need in northwest Syria, but what they need most is a cease-fire.  

On Tuesday, the U.S. and Britain announced additional funding to help address the most severe humanitarian crisis of Syria's nine-year civil war.

Kelly Craft, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, also reviewed relief efforts from the Turkish side of the border and announced an additional $108 million for food, shelter, medical care and other goods and services.

"Humanitarian aid is only the response, but the solution is an immediate cease-fire," Craft told reporters.

The U.N. has requested $500 million for the next six months to address the Idlib crisis.  

The heads of the World Food Program and the U.N. Children's Fund made forays into Idlib Tuesday to see the situation firsthand.

"Today, with the UNICEF chief, I met many children who are entering their 10th year of conflict in Syria," David Beasley, executive director of WFP, tweeted Tuesday. "UNICEF and WFP are working together to help these children stay in school. They have missed far too much, but they still want to learn!"

Some 3 million people live in Idlib, many displaced from other parts of the country. Since the escalation in fighting, some 980,000 people, including about 600,000 children, have fled north within the province and are caught between the front lines and Turkey's closed border.

VOA's Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.

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