U.N. draws up Syria aid plan to feed 1.5 mln

The United Nations is readying food stocks for 1.5 million people in Syria as part of a 90-day emergency contingency plan to help civilians deprived of basic supplies after nearly a year of conflict.

“More needs to be done,” John Ging of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) told a one-day Syria Humanitarian Forum on Thursday. “There is a huge amount of concern.

“The U.N. side of the humanitarian community is looking at the process of additional food stocks pre-positioned to target 1.5 million people,” said Ging, who is chairing the meeting.

The U.N. estimates more than 7,500 civilians have died during Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on a popular uprising.

Syria’s ambassador Faysal Khabbaz Hamoui, backed by its ally Russia, accused armed groups of attacking infrastructure, including schools and medical facilities, and causing huge destruction.

“Rebel groups attack, kill, torture and intimidate the civilian population. The flow of all kind of terrorists from some neighbouring countries is always increasing. Most of the militants are directly or closely affiliated with al Qaeda,” Mikhail Lebedev, Russia’s deputy ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, told the talks.

The key to successful humanitarian assistance was “a ceasefire by all Syrian parties and their participation in an inclusive political dialogue”, he said.

Ging described the situation in Syria as “very fluid” and said the capacity of Syrian health services to provide trauma care and medicines must be restored. Water systems damaged during shelling of residential areas must be repaired.

The world body, which has been shut out of Syria, has drawn up an initial three-month aid plan of $105 million which is likely to translate into a funding appeal to donors, diplomats and U.N. sources told Reuters.

“Safe access to affected areas, in order to identify the greatest needs and deliver needed assistance is still not permitted by the Syrian regime … We urge all parties to permit immediate, safe and unhindered access,” U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state Kelly T. Clements said in a statement.

Top U.N. aid official Valerie Amos is midway through a three-day visit to Syria, where she made a brief visit on Wednesday to the shattered Baba Amr district of Homs.

“ABOUT GETTING ACCESS”

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the only international agency to deploy aid workers in Syria, also took part in the meeting that lasted three hours.

“The political process is getting very complicated but the Syrian people cannot wait. Humanitarians have to step in,” Claus Sorensen, director general of the European Union’s aid department ECHO, told the talks.

“The purpose of this meeting is to give an answer to the immediate suffering … It is about getting access, access and access – that is a precondition for actually providing any type of relief,” he said.

Hamoui, Syria’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, said the forum had been convened “contrary to the U.N. Charter”.

“Syria is not undergoing a humanitarian crisis,” Hamoui said, accusing some media of trying to “prepare the ground for foreign military intervention”.

“Today we are exporting products of industry and agriculture, and livestock as well to most countries of the region,” he said.

Dr. Sima Bahous, assistant secretary-general of the League of Arab States, told the meeting: “We call on all parties to cease violence and killing immediately and ensure delivery of humanitarian assistance to all areas.”

Kofi Annan, the U.N.-Arab League special envoy on Syria, said he would urge President Assad and his foes to stop fighting and seek a political solution.

Source: Reuters

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