Britain will continue to press for tougher United Nations authority to bypass obstructions to getting humanitarian aid to victims of Syria’s civil war, William Hague said after the official estimate of the number now in need neared 11 million.
UN humanitarian chief Baroness Amos said the regime of Bashar Assad was more concerned with “controlling” the work of aid agencies than getting emergency supplies to victims of the fighting.
Damascus has warned any attempt to authorise aid being sent directly into rebel-held areas from neighbouring countries – a move under discussion as part of efforts to agree a new Security Council resolution – would justify retaliation.
A resolution passed four months ago has proved inadequate, with Baroness Amos revealing in her latest update that an additional 1.2 million have been added to those in need in that period, taking it to 10.8 million.
Of those, 4.7 million are in hard-to-reach areas and 241,000 are under siege conditions.
But new bureaucratic hurdles imposed by the government have contributed to only half the planned UN food assistance being dispatched in June, and only around one in a hundred of the 241,000 people living under siege conditions getting food.
Some opposition groups have “attacked, threatened and refused to co-operate” with aid workers, she noted.
“I cannot describe to the Council the frustration felt by experienced aid workers who have to spend endless hours trying to get agreement for aid deliveries as people’s lives hang in the balance.
“The focus of the government of Syria remains on controlling the work of the UN and its partners. Our focus remains on the people who so desperately need our help.”
Mr Hague said: ” Four months after UN Security Council resolution 2139 was unanimously passed to address the desperate humanitarian situation in Syria, Assad’s regime continues to block aid from getting to millions who urgently need it, to use siege and starvation tactics against civilian communities, and to carry out indiscriminate air attacks and barrel bombing of populated neighbourhoods.
“The regime’s failure to comply with UN Security Council demands has led to the rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Syria with half of Syria’s population now in need of humanitarian assistance. 4.7 million people are now being deliberately denied access to urgent food, water and medical supplies.
“The UN Secretary General has asked for the Security Council’s help in ensuring aid reaches all those who need it across the whole of Syria. We must heed this call.
“That is why the UK is pressing for the adoption of a new and tougher UN Security Council resolution which would give the UN’s humanitarian agencies the authority they have been asking for to deliver aid into Syria.”