UN: Thousands may have starved to death in besieged Syrian areas
by Daily Sabah with Wires
ISTANBULMar 01, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Daily Sabah with Wires
Mar 01, 2016 12:00 am
The United Nations prepared Monday to deliver aid to thousands of besieged civilians in Syria as a fragile ceasefire entered its third day largely intact despite accusations of violations.
U.N. humanitarian coordinator Yacoub El Hillo said the world body hoped to take advantage of the first major truce in five years of conflict to distribute supplies to an extra 154,000 people living in besieged areas over the next five days. The U.N. estimates more than 480,000 Syrians live in areas besieged by government forces, rebels or extremists of DAESH or al-Qaida.
A convoy carrying medical supplies and blankets was due to head to the town of Moadamiyet al-Sham, surrounded by regime forces south of Damascus, on Monday, a U.N. source told AFP. It would be the first aid delivery since the cease-fire began on Saturday.
The U.N. human rights chief said thousands may have starved to death in besieged areas as the warring sides showed no respect for the rules of war.
"The deliberate starvation of people is unequivocally forbidden as a weapon of warfare. By extension, so are sieges," Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said on Monday. The flow of aid to areas long denied access would also create a more favorable backdrop for peace talks that collapsed in acrimony in early February.
Aid workers say several dozen people have died of starvation just in Madaya, which became a symbol of the plight of besieged Syrians after shocking images of starving residents spread last month. But Zeid warned the situation could be far more dire. "Thousands of people may have starved to death," he said.
U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura aims to relaunch negotiations on March 7 if the cease-fire lasts and more aid is delivered. The main opposition grouping Sunday described the cease-fire as "positive" but lodged a formal complaint with the United Nations and foreign governments about breaches.
"We have violations here and there, but in general it is a lot better than before and people are comfortable," said Salem al-Meslet, spokesman for the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee.
The U.N. estimates around 486,700 Syrians are living under sieges imposed by the regime, rebels or DAESH. The U.N.'s aid chief said last month that 75 percent of its requests for aid deliveries in Syria went unanswered by the government.
The Syria conflict, which will enter its sixth year in March, has left more than 250,000 people dead, and has turned the country into the world's largest source of refugees and displaced persons, according to the U.N. Nearly 8 million victims are internally displaced, and more than four million have fled the country since the conflict started.