‘Besiegement belongs in the Middle Ages’
Meanwhile in Geneva, Staffan de Mistura, UN Special Envoy for Syria, Jan Egeland, his Senior Special Advisor, and Yacoub El Hillo, UN Resident Coordinator/Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria, briefed the press on a meeting of the humanitarian task force set up by the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) – consisting of the UN, the Arab League, the European Union and 18 countries that have been working on a way forward since late last year.
Staffan de Mistura, UN Special Envoy for Syria (centre), flanked by Jan Egeland, his Senior Special Advisor (left), and Yacoub El Hillo, UN Resident Coordinator/Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria, brief the press in Geneva. UN Photo/Anne-Laure Lechat (file)
Mr. de Mistura said that the timing of resumption of the intra-Syrian talks would depend on the discussions he will have in New York and Washington in the coming days, and in particular the debate on Syria at the Security Council next week. He said he still hopes that the talks will resume in July.
Mr. Egeland said that altogether, 16 out of the 18 besieged areas have been reached since the Task Force started work in February. The two remaining areas are Arbeen and Zamalka, both in rural Damascus, where humanitarian aid is expected to reach next week. But the Government has cleared aid for only a fraction of an estimated 40,000 people in those places.
He said ISSG members are aware that humanitarian assistance is only alleviating the suffering of the Syrian people. “Besiegement is continuing, it should never be there in the first place […] it belongs in the Middle Ages, not in our time,” he said.
Medical relief has not gotten much better. The main reason for people dying within besieged areas is because there is no medical service for easily preventable diseases, he said.
For his part, Mr. El Hillo said that 13.5 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance today, not all of them in besieged or hard-to-reach areas. The United Nations is very much on the ground, operating in different parts of Syria with a powerful network of both international and national partners who are also working from inside Syria but also from across the borders.
But the international donor community must remember that “the cost of doing humanitarian business in Syria is very high because of all the complications and all the impediments,” he said, stressing that humanitarian appeal for 2016 is funded at 20 per cent.