International call for Syria aid drops as first supplies in years reach Damascus suburb

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Ahead of the UN Security Council meeting on Syria, France and Britain have called for immediate humanitarian aid airdrops. Some medical supplies have reached a starved suburb of Damascus for the first time since 2012.

The United Nations Security Council meets on Friday to discuss the crisis in beseiged areas of Syria. Ahead of the talks, French Ambassador Francois Delattre called for humanitarian airdrops.

“France is asking the United Nations, and in particular the World Food Programme to begin humanitarian airdrops for all the areas in need, beginning with Daraya, Moadamiyeh and Madaya, where the civilian population including children risks dying of hunger,” Delattre said in New York on Wednesday.

The French ambassador’s comments were mirrored by his British counterpart Matthew Rycroft who called for the emergency Security Council meeting to discuss humanitarian access and press ahead with the airdrops agreed at last month’s meeting of the International Syria Support Group.

“It’s too little, too late,” Rycroft said. “I think that we need to press on with what the ISSG said, which is, in that scenario, there needs to be airdrops.”

However, Russia’s Ambassador Vitaly Churkin backed land deliveries: “Airdrops are much more complicated and much less effective and so I think we need to continue to pursue with land deliveries,” he said. Russian officials said a 48-hour truce in Daraya had been agreed “with the leadership and the American side” to help with the aid delivery.

Medical supplies get through

The US State Department welcomed the first deliveries to the town of Daraya since 2012, and a second delivery which reached Moadamiyeh for the first time since March.

The UN believes that between 4,000 to 8,000 people live in the Damascus suburb of Daraya. It has been under a government blockade since residents expelled security forces in the early stages of the 2011 uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

There was no food in the joint UN, International Committee of the Red Cross, and Syrian Arab Red Crescent convoy that reached Daraya on Wednesday. The shipment included medicines, vaccines, baby formula, and “nutritional items for children,” the ICRC said.

“Clearly, what we brought today will not meet the needs of people in Daraya, and a one-off delivery of food will not either,” Krista Armstrong of the ICRC reported. “We need to have repeated and regular access to all people living in besieged places in Syria.” The ICRC hopes to return to Daraya with food deliveries on Friday.

Food for Moadamiyeh

Food did reach neighboring Moadamiyeh on Wednesday. It is also under government siege. The 36-truck aid convoy carried the first food supplies that the town has received since February.

The office of the UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said it was reviewing “every possible means” to reach 592,700 people in besieged areas and millions more facing severe food shortages in areas of Syria which are difficult to reach.

De Mistura and Stephen O’Brien, the under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, will brief Security Council members on Friday.

jm/msh (AFP, AP)