UN humanitarian officials have warned the Security Council that unless it does something urgently to halt the siege in Aleppo, the war-battered city would become a giant graveyard.
The UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan Mistura, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien and Geert Cappelaere, Regional Director of the UNICEF for the Middle East and North Africa issued the warning while briefing the Council.
“With thousands of civilians fleeing neighbourhoods in eastern Aleppo, the Security Council and the wider international community must come together.
“They should do everything in their power to protect civilians and enable aid access to the besieged parts of the war-battered city before it becomes one giant graveyard,” Mistura appealed.
Painting a dire picture of the situation on the ground, the UN Special Envoy told the Council that the “humanitarian tragedy” in Aleppo was only deepening.
According to him, both ground and air assaults against the eastern half of the iconic city have intensified over the last two weeks, forcing an estimated 25,000 from their homes since Saturday.
“It is likely that thousands more will flee should fighting continue to spread and further intensify over the coming days,” he said, briefing the Council via video conference from Geneva.
He decried what he termed the continued dominance of military over political strategies, and the brutal price being paid by civilians in the process.
Speaking via videoconference from London, O’Brien recalled that for over five years, the UN and the entire humanitarian community had raised the alarm about the devastating impact of the conflict in Syria on millions of ordinary men, women and children.
“Our calls, and the requests, even the demands of this Council, have largely gone ignored,” he lamented, saying the Security Council must come together and stop the brutality in Syria.
O’Brien, who is also the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said that nowhere had the cruelty of the Syrian war been more grimly witnessed than in Aleppo.
According to him, the world has witnessed “bombs and mortars raining down in recent days, weeks and months on civilian areas, residential houses, schools, medical facilities, water and electricity stations, and public markets”.
He said the world had witnessed “constant, tormenting images of people murdered, bloody, and exhausted”, saying that amid intensifying attacks on eastern Aleppo over the last four days, numerous civilians had reportedly been killed.
O’Brien informed the Security Council that he received a report that scores of people were killed in an airstrike on Wednesday.
“It may be too late for many of the people of eastern Aleppo, but surely this Council can come together, stop the brutality and also prevent a similar fate befalling other Syrians,” he said.
He added that Syrian and the humanitarian community needed to see real respect and protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure; safe, rapid and unimpeded humanitarian access; and an end to brutal sieges once and for all.
While briefing the Council, Cappelaere regretted that children under five in Syria knew nothing but a lifetime shaped by war.
“To say that the situation is tragic would be an understatement; it is difficult to imagine what words could still adequately convey the unspeakable horrors endured by Syria’s children every day.
“Indeed, tens of thousands of children have already been killed. Millions have been uprooted, some more than once. Too many have been deprived of basic medical care and safe drinking water.”
Cappelaere said “too many have witnessed the death of their loved ones and the destruction of the places they once thought are safe: their homes, their schools, their playgrounds.
“Simply put, Syria’s children are trapped in a living nightmare. Children ask ‘why.’ We ask ‘why.’ The devastating downward spiral has to end.
“Today, every single child under the age of five has known nothing but a lifetime shaped by war. The protection of children should be, at all times, a primary consideration for all.
“We have failed them over the last six years, and we continue to fail the children in Syria. This is not only jeopardising children’s lives, but the future of the country, the future of the region and the future of the whole world.
“UNICEF renews its call on all parties to lift the sieges across Syria, and to allow and facilitate immediate, unconditional and sustained humanitarian access to all areas across the country.” (NAN)