Syria aid access ‘challenging’

 25 Mar 2014 - 5:08


UNITED NATIONS: UN chief Ban Ki-moon reported yesterday that humanitarian access to Syrians remains “extremely challenging” a month after the world body demanded a lifting of sieges and bombardments of residential areas.
Ban called on the government and the opposition to take measures to ease the delivery of relief supplies, notably medicine, to 9.3 million Syrians in need. “One month after the passing of Security Council resolution 2139, humanitarian access in Syria remains extremely challenging for humanitarian organisations,” Ban said.
“Delivering lifesaving items, in particular medicines, remains difficult. And the assistance reaching people continues to fall far short of what is required to cover even their basic needs,” he said.
Ban was referring to a UN Security Council resolution passed unanimously February 22 that called for the lifting of sieges and an end to bombardments of residential areas with barrel bombs. The resolution, which Russia supported after negotiations, provides no sanctions against those who fail to respect it.
While it leaves open the door to sanctions against violators at some later point, based on Ban’s report, that would require another decision by the Security Council. The report estimated that 3.5 million people were trapped in areas under siege or difficult to reach because of fighting, a million more than at the start of the year. 
Ban condemned “the continued heavy shelling, including the use of barrel bombs by the Syrian government forces in residential neighbourhoods, as well as the terror acts in Syria by extremist groups who are attempting to impose radical ideologies in some parts of the country.”
According to the report, 220,000 people are living under siege in Homs, Nubl and Zhara and in several localities on the outskirts of Damascus. Most, about 175,000, are under siege from the Syrian military, and the remainder by opposition forces. The United Nations has identified 258 “priority zones” where improved humanitarian access would have an especially positive impact.