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U.N. says it is unable to provide urgently needed aid near Damascus

July 03, 2013|By Raja Abdulrahim
  • Activist Adnan Sheikh films damages to a mosque in June 2012 after repeated shelling by government forces in Moadamyeh, Syria.
Activist Adnan Sheikh films damages to a mosque in June 2012 after repeated… (Los Angeles Times )

United Nations agencies have for months been unable to deliver aid in Damascus suburbs where families “are subject to immense suffering,” despite repeated promises from the Syrian government to grant access.

More than 1.2 million people in urgent need of assistance are living in hard to reach areas amid deteriorating conditions around Damascus, according to the U.N.

Since November, an estimated 5,000 families in the town of Moadamyeh have been cut off from surrounding areas,  blocked by government checkpoints or snipers, said Adnan Sheikh, an activist and resident of the town.

The challenge of delivering aid to the town reflects a larger access problem across Syria, with many communities hardest hit by warfare being among the most difficult to reach with aid. U.N. humanitarian agencies have been unable, for example, to gain access to many neighborhoods in the embattled city of Homs.

“This situation does not reflect the repeated pledges by the authorities to allow humanitarian actors to access all areas in Syria where there is need to deliver humanitarian assistance,” the U.N. said in a statement released June 12 regarding the situation in Moadamyeh.

The U.N. estimates that more than 4 million Syrians are internally displaced because of the conflict.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch reported this week that Syria’s neighbors – Iraq, Turkey and Jordan – are preventing Syrian refugees from entering their countries. Numerous border crossings have been closed, stranding tens of thousands of people trying to flee the warfare.

In Moadamyeh, Sheikh said that the situation "is tragic to the point of being unbearable.”

Water and electricity have also been cut off, and residents are dependent on generators, Sheikh said. There is intermittent shelling of the town and occasional clashes on its outskirts.

“The people are living off their reserves but these have run out and people have begun planting or eating leaves,” he said. “But the biggest worry is there is no milk for the infants.”

Since March, U.N. aid agencies have made repeated attempts to deliver food and life-saving assistance to the town. The agencies submitted three official requests to the government and were rescheduled seven times.

During a recent seven-day period of negotiated access, the World Food Program made two unsuccessful attempts to deliver aid, said Clare Doyle, a deputy spokeswoman for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Both times the convoy reached the last checkpoint before Moadamyeh but had to turn back “due to ongoing hostilities,” she said.

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Twitter: @rajaabdulrahim

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