UN postpones Syria talks due to humanitarian aid blockade and continued strikes

Published March 1st, 2016 - 07:32 GMT
Syrian children carry sacks of wheat, provided by the World Food Programme (WFP), in Kafr Batna, in the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area, outside Damascus on March 1, 2016. (AFP/Amer Almohibany)
Syrian children carry sacks of wheat, provided by the World Food Programme (WFP), in Kafr Batna, in the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area, outside Damascus on March 1, 2016. (AFP/Amer Almohibany)

The humanitarian aid flow inside war-ridden Syria has been interrupted and blocked as Russian and regime air forces continue to strike opposition positions in violation of the four-day ‘cessation of hostilities’ agreement.

The deal to halt the ongoing fighting was announced by Washington and Moscow last week, and came into effect in Syria at midnight Friday, with the expectation of allowing aid to be delivered to civilians.

According to UN World Food Programme, there are a total of 486,700 people living in 18 besieged areas, with Madaya town being the most outstanding among these.

Located northwest of the capital Damascus, Madaya has been reeling under a crippling siege by Syrian regime forces and allied militants of Lebanon's Hezbollah group for over eight months.

The deaths in Madaya caused by a shortage of food and medical supplies have caught the international eye.

Only two humanitarian aid conveys -- both dispatched by the UN -- have made it into the town, which is home to 40,000 people, along with the other besieged areas of Zabadani, Fua and Qafraya.

Less than an hour before the deal took effect, the UN Security Council unanimously endorsed a resolution endorsing a plan to halt the fighting in Syria.

The council called on parties "to immediately allow humanitarian agencies rapid, safe and unhindered access throughout Syria by most direct routes, allow immediate, humanitarian assistance to reach all people in need, in particular in all besieged and hard-to-reach areas".

According to reports from besieged areas, only Muaddamiyah district of Damascus has received humanitarian aid since the deal.

A total of 10 humanitarian aid trucks loaded only with food and cleaning materials managed to enter the town after it was held up by regime forces.

As local sources in the town reported, the 10 trucks of aid did not include any medical equipment, which is the most urgent need, especially for chronic patients.

One more child death was also reported in Madaya on Monday due to a lack of medicines. The UN said in mid-January there were 400 patients in the town in critical condition -- four of whom were transferred elsewhere for treatment on Feb. 12.

Feb. 13-14 also saw medical equipment aid convoys enter the eastern Ghouta district of Damascus. The last batch of aid reached the town after two people died having suffered from renal failure for seven months.

The UN announced that its teams airdropped 21-tons of humanitarian aid onto Deir ez-Zor, which remains under Daesh terrorists' control.

Local sources also stated that further aid convoys announced by the UN for Madaya, Zabadani, Fua and Qafraya scheduled for Feb. 28 never reached the towns.

In a briefing to the Security Council before the vote on the resolution, the UN's Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said he plans to restart Syria peace talks on March 7 in Geneva, if the truce "largely holds" and ensures more effective delivery of humanitarian aid.

This date has now been pushed back to March 9.

During remarks on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry lashed out at the Assad regime for hampering the delivery of humanitarian aid in Syria.

"And so we call on the Assad regime to, at least in a moment of cessation of hostilities, try to show some measure of decency, if that is even possible," he said.


© Copyright Andolu Ajansi

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