‘The increased humanitarian access in a limited number of areas is just a drop in the ocean when compared with the massive civilian suffering across Syria’ - José Luis
As many as a quarter of a million civilians in areas under siege around Syria need the UN Security Council to push for unfettered humanitarian access to alleviate their suffering, Amnesty International said today, as the UN considers a draft resolution submitted by Australia, Luxembourg and Jordan.
Though there has recently been limited progress in allowing the delivery of humanitarian aid to some besieged areas in Syria, Amnesty warned that the situation remains “truly dire” and that recent humanitarian relief has been “just a drop in the ocean”.
In one location alone - the Yarmouk camp for Palestinian refugees south of Damascus, in which Syrian nationals also live - Amnesty has received the names of more than 100 men, women and children who have died during a siege imposed by the Syrian armed forces. Many have died of starvation, a lack of adequate medical care or from sniper fire. Amid negotiations to end the Yarmouk siege, hundreds of individuals have now been evacuated to hospitals elsewhere in Damascus, but thousands remain trapped.
Russia - which along with China has vetoed three Security Council resolutions on Syria in the past two and a half years - has already voiced its opposition to the new draft resolution. As negotiations continue on the draft, the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos will brief the Security Council today on developments over the implementing of humanitarian assistance over the Syria crisis.
The Yarmouk camp, south of Damascus
Yarmouk residents - who also include Syrian nationals - have told Amnesty that they have had no electricity for a year, are forced to forage under sniper fire for grass to eat, and some have resorted to eating cats. Local activists have published the names of numerous individuals, including relief workers, who were arrested in the last two weeks when they went to the camp’s main northern checkpoint to assist in the distribution of a small aid delivery. Health workers in the camp have told Amnesty that only one of Yarmouk’s hospitals continues to partially function but that it has no doctors.
Meanwhile, blockades by Syrian government forces on Moadamiya, Eastern Ghouta and other areas have also left desperate civilians trapped and facing extreme food and medical shortages. Two predominantly Shi’a towns in the Aleppo governorate, Zahraa and Nubl, have also been besieged by armed opposition groups in recent months.
José Luis, head of Amnesty International’s UN office in New York, said:
“The situation for civilians trapped and under siege in a number of locations around Syria is truly dire, with vital food and medical supplies either in short supply or completely lacking.
“The increased humanitarian access in a limited number of areas is just a drop in the ocean when compared with the massive civilian suffering across Syria today.
“Time and again, the Security Council has squandered the opportunity to tackle the human rights and humanitarian catastrophe that has unfolded during nearly three years of unrest in Syria.
“The Council, including Russia and China, must adopt a strong resolution on access and not fail Syria’s besieged civilians now.
“With the Geneva talks between the Syrian government and armed groups faltering, the UN Security Council has no time to lose to ensure adequate humanitarian access is allowed to reach all civilians in need.”
Amnesty is also calling on the Syrian government to allow the UN-mandated Commission of Inquiry on Syria access to investigate all human rights violations and abuses being committed by all parties to the conflict. It should also allow access to Amnesty and other human rights organisations. Amnesty also continues to call for the release of peaceful activists in government detention and civilian hostages being held by armed groups.