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UN appreciates Russia’s help in settling humanitarian issues with Damascus - official

April 20, 2013, 10:38 UTC+3

The United Nations Security Council, he said, is the body that has the powers to act when the humanitarian law is violated

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UNITED NATIONS, April 20 (Itar-Tass) - The United Nations emergency coordinator has praised Russian for its efforts to settle humanitarian aid access problems with Damascus.

John Ging, Director of Operations for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), admitted that over the entire Syrian crisis period contacts with Russia had been very useful. He praised Russian for its efforts to use its influence on Damascus to solve humanitarian problems.

According to Ging, the United Nations Security Council will soon have to look at vesting humanitarian organizations with authorities to carry out the so-called “transborder operations” to be able to reach millions of Syrians who are in dire need across the country. The United Nations, he said, has reached an impasse with the Syrian government on access for its aid workers to move across lines that are held by opposition fighters. He said the government will not allow them to cross these lines. Currently, all humanitarian cargoes are delivered to Damascus, from where they are distributed across the country.

Ging stressed that international humanitarian laws allow to deliver aid by whatever secure routes are available, but the Syrian government bans to do so. The United Nations Security Council, he said, is the body that has the powers to act when the humanitarian law is violated.

He said he hoped Russia would take the transborder operations request with understanding.

Ging recently returned from a ten-day trip to Syria, where he said he found appalling suffering and “phenomenal” devastation.

“This country is being taken back in time decades, decades. This should mobilize a realization that it has to stop now, rather than allowing it to just continue on in the direction it is going,” he told reporters on Friday. He said the scale of the devastation caused by heavy weapons to infrastructure, schools, hospitals and homes is “quite incredible” and will take decades to rebuild.

According to Ging, among the worst hit cities are Aleppo in the north that used to be a commercial centre of the country and Deraa in the far south, where the crisis began more than two years ago. Aleppo, in his words, is divided between government- and opposition-controlled areas. In regime areas, he said, there is only an hour or two of electricity daily, there is significant damage to infrastructure, but shops are open and reasonably well supplied. In opposition-controlled areas, however, the situation is on a brink of a humanitarian catastrophe, he noted.

“We were shocked by what we saw immediately. The streets are strewn with rubbish - it’s a public health disaster in the making,” Ging said. “They have no electricity at all. The phone network - both landline and mobile - totally cut off. Very little traffic moving around because there is almost no fuel. Also, we were told that people had water once every five days. The shops are almost empty, depleted.”


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