UN humanitarian chief urges aid delivery to Syrians

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. humanitarian chief urged Syria’s warring parties on Wednesday to ensure the delivery of desperately needed aid to Syrians stranded near the border with Jordan and warned again that a major military operation in extremist-controlled Idlib would be a humanitarian catastrophe.

Mark Lowcock said the U.N. wants an aid convoy, with more than 100 trucks accompanied by some 250 U.N. and Syrian Arab Red Crescent personnel, to leave for the isolated Rukban camp on the Syria-Jordan border by Feb. 5. Its 42,000 people “remain stranded in deteriorating conditions since the last convoy to the area in early November,” which was the first since January 2018, he said.

Lowcock also appealed for money to buy basics from blankets to baby milk and bandages for millions of Syrians living under tents or tarpaulins or in unheated buildings in severe winter conditions that have seen freezing temperatures, snowfalls and flooding that has forced tens of thousands of people to move.

His address to the U.N. Security Council came amid rising concern over the plight of some three million people in Idlib, which was the last major stronghold of the Syrian opposition. Earlier this month, al-Qaida-linked militants seized more than two dozen towns and villages in northern Syria from rival insurgents in the most serious blow to a September cease-fire brokered by Russia and Turkey that averted a major government offensive in Idlib province.

Lowcock said that January saw an increase in fighting between armed groups in Idlib, “placing civilians at risk and resulting in injury and death.”

“Today I reiterate the importance of sustaining the Russia-Turkey agreement and remind you that a largescale military operation in Idlib would have catastrophic humanitarian implications,” he told council members.

The envoys from the United States, Britain, France and other council nations echoed Lowcock and stressed that all efforts must be made to sustain the Idlib cease-fire.