UN aid chief to visit Syria but options limited
Posted on 9 months ago
GENEVA (Agencies): United Nations humanitarian chief Valerie Amos will go to Syria on Tuesday to discuss ways of increasing emergency aid to civilians, but fighting must ebb before there is any real hope of gaining access to hot spots, diplomats said on Monday.
During her three-day trip, Amos will also visit Lebanon to meet Syrian families who have fled the violence and hold talks on providing support to the growing number of refugees, a U.N. statement said.
The humanitarian situation in Syria has worsened in recent weeks as fighting spread to Damascus and Aleppo. "Two million people are now estimated to have been affected by the crisis and over one million have been internally displaced," it said.
Amos' schedule of meetings was not released, but the statement said that she would meet Syrian authorities, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and other aid agencies.
She went to Syria in March to seek unhindered access for aid workers to the worst-hit areas and secured an agreement from the government for a joint but limited assessment of the humanitarian situation.
But U.N. efforts to launch a major aid operation since then have been stymied by both bureaucracy and insecurity.
The escalation in the 17-month conflict between government forces and rebel fighters means there are few options for boosting relief operations unless the guns fall silent, diplomats said.
"As long as you have violence going on areas with the greatest needs, it becomes an access question. You can't do it with bullets flying," a Western diplomatic source told Reuters.
"Announcing someone has access is insignificant if the shells are still falling," he said.
Despite growing needs, Syria has refused to grant visas to Western aid workers, a U.N. official said last month.
Growing insecurity forced the world body to withdraw some expatriate aid workers from Syria in late July.
The U.N. still deploys some 36 expatriates and 1,000 Syrian aid workers in the country, while a further 3,600 Syrians work for the U.N. agency helping Palestinian refugees known as UNRWA.