UN: Aid to Syria's besieged up since cease-fire began

AP News
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Posted: Mar 29, 2016 6:05 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A new report says the United Nations and partners delivered badly needed medical and food supplies to about 150,000 people in besieged areas of Syria after a cease-fire that started last month led to a drop-off in fighting.

U.N. convoys delivered supplies to people in 10 of 18 areas under siege and to thousands in other, hard-to-reach areas after the Feb. 27 cease-fire, according to the monthly report made available Tuesday.

By comparison, less than 1 percent of areas designated as besieged received food aid in all of 2015, according to the U.N.'s humanitarian office.

The U.N. estimates that about 487,000 people live in besieged areas and more than 4 million live in hard-to-reach areas. The new report covers the month of February but includes some data from early March.

Although the cease-fire has been fragile, with numerous reports of violence including airstrikes and ground attacks, the report says getting aid to those who need it was more difficult before it began.

"Indiscriminate and disproportionate aerial bombings and ground attacks by Government forces, supported by their allies, and indiscriminate shelling by non-State armed opposition groups and designated terrorist groups continued to kill, injure and displace civilians," the report says.

Even with improved aid access, deliveries of supplies to besieged areas such as Madaya and Darayya are often blocked by fighters despite numerous cases of severe malnutrition, the report says.

"Some 80,000 medical treatments were not allowed on, or removed from, humanitarian convoys to besieged areas during the reporting period," it said.

The report also found that prior to the truce the violence was widespread, with "indiscriminate and disproportionate" aerial bombings and ground attacks against civilians by government forces, opposition groups and terrorist groups such as the Islamic State and Nusrah Front.

At least 470 civilians were killed and hundreds more were injured during the reporting period, according to the U.N. Human Rights Commission.

More than 250,000 Syrians have been killed and nearly half of all Syrians have been forced from their homes in the years-long conflict, according to the U.N.

Peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition delegations are set to resume April 9. So far, little progress has been made on getting the parties to discuss the U.N. Security Council's plan for a political transition away from President Bashar Assad's government.