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UN calls on the Syrian government and its allies to stop the aerial bombing of Aleppo

BEIRUT |, with agencies - February 10, 2016, 07h51
Syrian children stand in the entryway of their tent shelter in the Bab Al Salame camp for internally displaced persons in Aleppo Governate. Photo: UNICEF/Giovanni Diffidenti

The United Nations emergency relief chief on Monday called on the Syrian Government and other parties to stop aerial bombardment that displaced over 30 000 civilians from Aleppo and other areas in northern Syria.

In a statement, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O'Brien called the regime and its allies to "honour their duty to protect civilians and allow safe access for aid as tens of thousands of people were reported to have been displaced from Aleppo and elsewhere in the war-torn country's north by heavy Government bombardment."

“I am gravely concerned by reports that over 30,000 civilians have been displaced from Aleppo City and other areas in northern Syria over the past week by heavy clashes and aerial bombardment by the Government of Syria, allied forces and armed groups,” he stated.

“About 80 per cent of them are estimated to be women and children. We have reports that civilians have been killed and injured, and that civilian infrastructure, including at least two hospitals, has been hit,” he noted.

He also voiced extreme concern for people in other parts of the country, including in Dar'a governorate in the south, where intensified fighting has displaced thousands of people, killing or injuring civilians.

While some people are able to stay with host families or relatives, displacement camps in the areas close to the border with Turkey are already full and running above capacity, with people urgently requiring shelter, food and basic household items.

“I urge the Government and other parties to this conflict to hold to their obligations under international human rights and international humanitarian law to protect all civilians in Syria and allow neutral, impartial humanitarian organizations safe and unconditional access to all people in need, whoever and wherever they are,” Mr. O'Brien said.

“I call on the warring parties to immediately halt all actions that might result in civilian loss of life and damage, to permit civilians to move to safer areas and to refrain from targeting medical and other civilian infrastructure,” he continued.

The UN and its humanitarian partners are working to quickly scale up their response and stocks, providing displaced families with food or cash and vouchers where feasible, as well as deploying mobile clinics, supplying health facilities and increasing water and sanitation services for new arrivals at the camps near Bab al Salameh border crossing.

The agencies are also working to bring water treatment and nutrition supplies to Aleppo City as well as school-in-a-box kits for Azaz and other areas of north Aleppo governorate.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced yesterday it has started distributing urgently needed food to people displaced from Aleppo.

The food was transported on cross-border convoys from Turkey into the small town of A’zaz in northwest Syria, 30 kilometres northwest of Aleppo city and close to the Syrian-Turkish border. Over the next few days, distributions will reach 21,000 people with more food to meet the urgent needs of the new wave of displaced people.

“The situation is quite volatile and fluid in northern Aleppo with families on the move seeking safety,” said Jakob Kern, WFP’s Country Director in Syria, in a press release.

“We are extremely concerned as access and supply routes from the north to eastern Aleppo city and surrounding areas are now cut off but we are making every effort to get enough food in place for all those in need, bringing it in through the remaining open border crossing point from Turkey,” he added.

The food includes rice, lentils, bulgur, pasta, white beans, chickpeas, vegetable oil, sugar and wheat flour in parcels that are enough to feed a family for one month. WFP is also sending ready-to-eat rations such as canned food for those who have no access to cooking facilities.

According to the agency, thousands of displaced people have gathered in A’zaz in search of refuge close to the Bab Al Salam border crossing point, and thousands more are expected to arrive if the fighting continues. More than 30,000 people are reported to be on the move, many of them fleeing towards the Turkish border, and the towns of A'zaz and Afrin.

Prior to the escalation in fighting in northern Aleppo, WFP was regularly delivering food across the Turkish border into Aleppo and Idleb governorates through the Bab al-Hawa and Bab al-Salam border crossings.

“WFP urges all parties to the conflict to facilitate unimpeded access to these communities in order to provide immediate relief to families who have already suffered for far too long,” Mr. Kern added.

#Aleppo, #Syria
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