Syrian misery continues despite drop in numbers in besieged zones

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Jan Egeland, Special Advisor to the Special Envoy for Syria at a press conference. 21 December 2017.
UN Photo/ Jean Marc Ferré

Aid access to Syria's most vulnerable communities must improve in 2018 amid worsening conditions in parts of the war-torn country, a senior aid official said on Thursday.

UN Special Advisor Jan Egeland was speaking in Geneva after meeting with countries that have influence on the warring parties inside Syria, where war has raged for nearly seven years.

He said that the international Humanitarian Task Force had helped "dozens and dozens" of aid convoys reach previously inaccessible areas, but many other places still remain out of bounds.

Daniel Johnson has more.

Inside what is left of Syria nearly 14 million people need humanitarian assistance and well over half of them get help every month.

Things are much more complicated for the 3.4 million people surviving in besieged areas and so-called "hard-to-reach" places, including Eastern Ghouta, Foah, Kafraya and Yarmuk.

Jan Egeland, Special Advisor to the UN, told journalists that although the number of people living in these front-line areas has fallen by nearly a half since 2016, humanitarian access had not improved.

He expressed hope that upcoming ceasefire talks in Astana with Russia, Turkey and Iran, would improve access for aid workers, before calling for a political solution to the "quagmire" that Syria has become.

"In many months we reached only 10 or maximum 20 per cent of the people in besieged areas. In December we haven't reached a single soul."

Just outside Damascus, conditions remain dire in Eastern Ghouta, an opposition-held area where 400,000 people are still under siege, amid ongoing mortar attacks by rebels into the Syrian capital.

Food is now only available "to the most affluent", Jan Egeland said, before warning that the list of people requiring life-saving medical help is getting shorter all the time – "not because we are evacuating them, but because they are dying".

These include a nine-month old infant born in Eastern Ghouta with a cleft-palate who died a week ago from severe acute malnutrition.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1’31″

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