UN: 12.2 million Syrians need humanitarian help

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – An estimated 12.2 million Syrians need assistance because of increasing violence and deteriorating conditions in the country, up from 10.8 million in July, the U.N. humanitarian chief said Tuesday.

But Valerie Amos told the U.N. Security Council that the delivery of aid from Turkey and Jordan to rebel-held areas in Syria without government approval has “made a difference.” She urged the council to extend the authorization for cross-border aid which expires on Jan. 9.

Amos painted a grim picture of the worsening situation in Syria: a 40 percent contraction in the economy since 2011, three-quarters of the population living in poverty, a 50 percent drop in school attendance, and 7.6 million people displaced inside the country and 3.2 million who have fled to other countries – the largest displacement in any conflict.

Amos’ briefing followed the release Tuesday of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s report to the council on implementation of the July 14 resolution authorizing cross-border delivery of aid to Syrians in rebel-held areas without government approval through four crossings in three countries. One crossing from Iraq, now controlled by extremists, has never been used.

Amos said that since the adoption of the resolution, and primarily through cross-border deliveries, the U.N. has gotten aid to nearly all hard-to-reach locations in four governorates – Aleppo, Idlib, Daraa, and Quneitra – which is why it should be renewed.

Australia’s U.N. Ambassador Gary Quinlan told reporters after closed council consultations that Australia, Jordan and Luxembourg plan to draft a resolution extending the cross-border operation for 12 months.

According to Ban’s report, the U.N. and its partners have reached an average of 66 hard to reach areas per month since the resolution’s adoption compared with an average of 38 per month in the four months leading up to the vote.

Amos stressed, however, that the U.N. is still falling short in meeting humanitarian needs in Syria, especially in getting aid to the 212,000 people in besieged areas – 185,500 in government-controlled areas and 26,500 in opposition-held areas.

She urged the council to call for the lifting of sieges, keep pushing for a political solution and call on Syria to reduce red tape and include medical supplies in convoys. She also urgef donors to fund the increasing humanitarian needs.

In the report, the secretary-general accused the government and opposition of targeting civilian areas and lamented the increasing numbers of people killed, injured, displaced and in need of assistance.

Ban said the Islamic State terrorist group, which controls a large swath of Syria, must be defeated. But he expressed concern “that a military campaign alone could lead to further radicalization and spark a cycle of renewed violence” – and that groups on all sides “are profiting from the deteriorating security and governance environment.”

The report said airstrikes by an international coalition against the Islamic State group in Syria have taken place on a near-daily basis, “with reports of some 865 people killed, including 50 civilians.”

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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