EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, THE GAMBIA: For the first time since the war began in Syria in 2011, no aid could be delivered to the population in need for more than 40 days, a senior UN humanitarian aid adviser said.
Speaking to journalists in Geneva, the Special Advisor to the UN Special Envoy for Syria Jan Egeland said, “we have not had a 40-day period before without access by land to any besieged area and it happened today. The last time we reached a besieged area by land inter-agency convoy was the 2nd of May to Duma. We haven’t been able to reach any of the remaining nearly dozen besieged areas where there are still more than 600,000 people. This could change this weekend.”
Egeland added “it is unacceptable that we do have trucks ready, courageous humanitarian workers eager to go – even in great danger often – warehouses full and civilians in need and then bureaucratic impediments, lack of permits infighting among armed groups, no clearance from the government leaves us unable to reach women and children and others in great need.”
Among the main concerning elements in the Syrian conflict, Egeland mentioned the ongoing battle in Ar-Raqqa. He said that “tens of thousands of civilians are now trapped inside Ar-Raqqa city. A tremendous battle is being waged. The attacking forces are now closing in on Raqqa city, there is intense bombardment from the air and it is very hard for the civilians to get out of Ar-Raqqa”. Egeland said that the situation “could not be worse” in Raqqa than it is today.
Following confirmation by the World Health Organization (WHO) last week of a “very dangerous” polio outbreak in the area of Deir es-Zor, trucks are being prepared to bring polio vaccine into areas held by the Islamic State (ISIL), Egeland said. Fifty-eight acute flaccid paralysis cases, a possible symptom of polio, have been reported in Deir ez-Zor through June 6.
“We are trying to reach all parts of Deir ez-Zor which mean also using local medical authorities that still exist there with vaccines”, the senior humanitarian adviser said. “But certainly a polio outbreak is a sign to the world, to the Syrians, to everybody, that this war has lasted too long, the population is really too weak and it is been too difficult to do the immunization campaigns needed to avoid epidemic disease.”
Humanitarian organizations are working to replace an expensive air bridge to the city Qamishli by road convoys from Aleppo, Egeland announced.
Asked about expectations for the next round of Syria talks in Astana, Egeland said he hopes “the de-escalation zones within which 2,5 million or more people will live according to the plans that they will indeed become not only de-escalation zones but free humanitarian access zones. That is what we hope for and that is what the Astana memorandum says.”