U.N. aid chief to visit Syria, Lebanon this week

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 13, 2012 4:39 AM
U.N. aid chief to visit Syria, Lebanon this week

GENEVA (Reuters) - United Nations humanitarian chief Valerie Amos will go to Syria on Tuesday to discuss ways of increasing emergency aid to civilians caught up in the conflict there, a U.N. statement said on Monday.

Amos will also visit Lebanon, where she will meet Syrian families who have fled the fighting, and hold talks on providing support to the growing number of refugees, it said.

The humanitarian situation in Syria has worsened in recent weeks. "Two million people are now estimated to have been affected by the crisis and over one million have been internally displaced," the statement said.

Nearly 150,000 Syrian refugees have registered in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey since the conflict began 17 months ago, the U.N. refugee agency said on Friday.

Amos was last in Syria in March to seek unhindered access for aid workers to the worst-hit areas. She secured an agreement from the government for a joint but limited assessment of the humanitarian situation in the country.

The United Nations has been trying to expand aid operations in Syria, but despite growing needs, the authorities have refused to grant visas to Western aid workers, a U.N. official said last month. Growing insecurity forced the United Nations to withdraw some expatriate aid workers from Syria in late July.

The world body has relied on the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to distribute its aid supplies, including food rations to 542,000 people in July, falling well short of its target of 850,000.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Alistair Lyon)