New york: The United Nations Secretary-General has called on the Security Council to take urgent action to ensure 3.5 million people cut off by fighting in Syria have access to food, water and medical help.
Ban Ki-moon said the blocking of humanitarian supplies represented “flagrant violations of the basic principles of international law”.
He said both sides in the war were responsible for hampering access to life-saving assistance, but his report to the UN Security Council said that more than 80 percent of the nearly quarter of a million people in the worst conditions, totally cut off from help, were in areas besieged by government forces. These included as the old centre of Homs, Madamiyet Elsham, Eastern Ghouta, Darayya and Yarmouk. About 45,000 people are in areas besieged by opposition forces in Nubul and Zahra.
Ban pointed out that two months after the Security Council passed a resolution demanding humanitarian access to the war’s victims, “none of the parties to the conflict have adhered to the demands of the council. Civilians are not being protected. The security situation is deteriorating and humanitarian access to those most in need is not improving.”
He said medicine was being routinely denied to those who needed them, including tens of thousands of women, children and older people. “The security council must take action to deal with these flagrant violations of the basic principles of international law.”
Ban, however, did not stipulate what action the Council should take. The body is deadlocked by disagreements between Russia and the western powers, now exacerbated by the freeze in relations over Ukraine.
The head of Save the Children, Justin Forsyth, said that with millions of people cut off from outside help “we are witnessing the kind of horrors never thought possible in 2014: Children starving to death, operations without anaesthetic, injuries from explosive weapons left untreated”.
“To deny access to food and medicine in this way is a grave violation of international law by all parties in Syria, effectively a war crime,” he said. “It’s vital that the UN and other humanitarian agencies are able to reach children in need wherever they are – in government or opposition held areas, across borders and across conflict lines.”
The UN estimates that more than 9 million people are in dire need of humanitarian assistance within Syria, of which more than 6 million have been forced out of their homes by the fighting. The 3.5 million people classed as hard to reach are scattered across 262 locations, of which aid convoys have only managed to reach 34. On top of that there are 2.4 million Syrian refugees who have fled to Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq.
On Wednesday, the heads of the UN’s five main humanitarian agencies said that the appeal for national donations to the emergency Syria appeal had gone largely unanswered. The Guardian