UN working to start cross-border aid to Syria

AP News
Posted: Jul 16, 2014 7:25 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations said Wednesday it has already positioned supplies for the first convoys that will deliver aid from several neighboring countries to rebel-held areas in Syria, and hopes to reach 2.9 million people.

U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos and the heads of the World Food Program and the U.N. children's agency said in a joint statement that a Security Council resolution adopted Saturday authorizing cross-border aid deliveries "represents a breakthrough in our efforts to get aid to Syrians in need."

The council, in rare agreement on Syria, authorized U.N. agencies and aid organizations that assist them to deliver humanitarian assistance across conflict lines between government and rebel forces and through four border crossings — two in Turkey, one in Iraq and one in Jordan — without government approval. It authorized the United Nations to monitor the loading of all aid shipments in the three countries before they cross the Syrian border.

Amos, WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin, and UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said they are working with heads of other U.N. agencies and NGO partners "on how best to implement the resolution, as a matter of urgency."

WFP teams on the ground are proceeding immediately to put in place the monitoring system required by the resolution and UNICEF has already positioned supplies for the initial shipments including blankets, water purification materials, hygiene kits and syringes, the U.N. officials said.

"Hungry, homeless children don't know or care whether they are in a government-controlled area or an opposition-controlled area," they said. "They just want food and a safe place to live.

The officials urged all parties to the Syrian conflict and those with influence over them to enable unconditional humanitarian access to the nearly 11 million people in the country who need help, using the most direct routes, whether across borders or conflict lines. They also demanded an end to the "onerous administrative procedures before convoys are allowed to travel from one place to another."