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Reports warn of the trapped

04 October 2013


Rubble: a displaced Syrian child plays with his baby brother near Kafer Rouma, in ancient ruins used as temporary shelter by families who have fled from heavy fighting and shelling in Idlib province, last Friday  

Rubble: a displaced Syrian child plays with his baby brother near Kafer Rouma, in ancient ruins used as temporary shelter by families who...

THE Security Council of the UN, "appalled" at the scale of violence and death in Syria, has called on all parties to enable humanitarian assistance to reach those in need, regardless of "political prejudices and aims".

Issued by the President of the Council, Agshin Mehdiyev, on Wednesday of last week, the statement warned that "several million Syrians, in particular internally displaced persons, nearly half of whom are children, are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance, and that without urgent increased humanitarian action, their lives will be at risk."

It warned that "arbitrarily depriving civilians of objects indispensable to their survival, including wilfully impeding relief supply and access, can constitute a violation of international humanitarian law".

Last week, Save the Children published a report, Hunger in a War Zone, which warned that hunger was now a "grave threat facing Syria's children". It described a situation in areas under siege, including Homes, Aleppo, Idleb, and Damascus, where nearly two million people are "unable to access food; afraid to drink the water".

One of the testimonies in the report was provided by a grandmother who was forced to hide in a basement without food,  fearful that the crying of her granddaughter would alert armed men to their presence.

Last month, the chief executive of UNICEF, Anthony Lake, warned that families were struggling to survive in beseiged areas: "We must be able to reach these children, urgently and without restrictions - and the various parties to the conflict can make that happen by immediately allowing humanitarian workers to reach them with life-saving assistance."

The UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, Baroness Amos, said that she was "extremely worried" by reports that more than half a million people were trapped in Damascus. She mentioned cases of severe malnutrition, as well as the spread of disease.

An assessment published in May by a group of aid agencies working in Syria reported that of the 15.6 million people living in the north of the country, 10.5 million lived in areas where "access to essential goods and services and security is considerably compromised, leaving them at elevated risk of harm."

More than two million people have fled Syria since the conflict began. On Tuesday, the UN high commissioner for refugees, António Guterres, called on on all countries, particularly in Europe and in the extended Middle East, to allow access to asylum.

Of the $4.4 billion needed to fund humanitarian support for Syria and neighbouring countries this year, only $1.84 billion has been raised so far.

In Egypt, which is home to more than 111,000 refugees, Refuge-Egypt, a ministry of the diocese of Egypt, North Africa & the Horn of Africa, is providing medical and nutritional care. Church World Service is also providing basic services in Cairo.

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