UN humanitarian chief demands more access to Syria

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UNITED NATIONS, March 29 (Xinhua) — UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock on Monday asked for more access to Syria as humanitarian needs surge to an unprecedented level.

The United Nations estimates that 13.4 million people across Syria require humanitarian aid, 20 percent more than last year, he told the Security Council in a briefing.

The deep economic decay from a decade of war has deepened further over the last year, not least as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Syrian pound fell to its lowest point ever against the dollar this month, he said.

Because food is imported, one consequence of the depreciation is that food prices are at unprecedented levels, leaving more than 12 million people without reliable access to food, said Lowcock.

There are more than 4 million people in northwest Syria and more than 75 percent of them depend on aid to meet their basic needs. The cross-border operation reaches almost 85 percent of these people in need every month.

The UN cross-border operation is too small to prevent malnutrition in the region, he said. “More money and more border crossings would address that.”

The United Nations has also been continuing to try to seek agreement on cross-line deliveries to the northwest. But the world body has yet to find an approach everyone can agree, he said. “Discussions continue. While we deliver 1,000 trucks a month of aid cross border into the northwest, we have yet to see even a single truck, just one, cross line.”

In the northeast, cross-line humanitarian assistance has scaled up. But needs still surpass the ability of the United Nations to address them, said Lowcock.

“We estimate that 1.8 million people require assistance in areas of northeast Syria outside of the control of the (Syrian) government. Over 70 percent of them are considered to be in extreme need — well above the national average,” he said.

Reputable aid organizations tell the United Nations that the availability and accessibility of health care in the northeast is insufficient. Few health issues are adequately addressed due to the limited functionality and capacity of health care facilities, the lack of adequately trained medical staff, and shortages of essential medicines. NGOs operating in the northeast report imminent stock-outs of critical medicines like insulin, and cardiovascular and antibacterial medicines in multiple facilities, said Lowcock. Enditem

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