UN chief asks for more humanitarian access to Syria

(Xinhua) 15:49, March 31, 2021

UNITED NATIONS, March 30 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday asked for more humanitarian access to Syria.

"Despite the UN's massive response in Syria and across the region, more humanitarian access is required to reach those most in need. This includes both cross-line and cross-border access," he said in a briefing to the General Assembly on the situation in Syria.

Some 3.4 million people in need -- 21 percent more than last year -- are pressed up against the border in an active war zone in northwest Syria, he said.

The United Nations dispatched an average of 1,000 trucks of aid per month in 2020, crossing the border from Turkey into Idlib, and reaching 2.4 million people each month throughout the year, he said.

Cross-line convoys, even if deployed regularly, could not replicate the size and scope of the cross-border operation. And despite significant and continuing efforts, the United Nations has not yet managed to create the conditions to deploy the first convoy from Damascus to northwest Syria, he said.

A large-scale cross-border response for an additional 12 months remains essential to save lives. A failure to extend the authorization would end the United Nations' COVID-19 vaccine distribution plans for millions of people in northwest Syria, and greatly diminish essential humanitarian operations. Food and other humanitarian aid deliveries by the United Nations would halt immediately. Less food will mean more suffering and more conflict, he warned.

The situation in the northeast has also worsened following the removal of Al-Yarubiyah as an authorized cross-border crossing last year. An estimated 1.8 million people require assistance in areas of northeast Syria outside of the control of the government. More than 70 percent of them are considered to be in extreme need -- well above the national average, said Guterres.

From Damascus, most agencies have regular access to northeast Syria for non-health items, in cross-line operations. On health items, in 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) completed six road shipments to northeast Syria, in addition to 13 airlifts, he said.

Medical supplies provided by the WHO were delivered to 15 hospitals and 106 primary health care centers cross-line. This represents a modest proportion of total needs, and many facilities remain short of staff, supplies and equipment, he said.

Overall, though, there is not enough aid of all sorts reaching northeast Syria, he said.

(Web editor: Guo Wenrui, Liang Jun)


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