UN warns of 'catastrophe' in Aleppo without truce agreement

UN warns of 'catastrophe' in Aleppo without truce agreement
The UN's aid chief on Monday expressed his anger at the inability of world powers to reach a humanitarian truce agreement in Aleppo, warning of an unparalleled "catastrophe".
3 min read
22 August, 2016
Stephen O'Brien slammed world powers for their inaction in Aleppo [Anadolu]

The United Nations' humanitarian chief voiced anger on Monday at world powers' inability to agree on a truce to allow aid into Aleppo, warning of an "humanitarian catastrophe unparalleled in the over five years of bloodshed" in the battleground Syrian city.

Stephen O'Brien said Aleppo is being bombed every day, including a dozen new attacks on Monday, and has become "the apex of horror" in "the greatest crisis of our time."

He told the UN Security Council, which has been deeply divided over Syria, that "you have the power with a pen - a simple pen stroke - to allow food to people."

O'Brien said that plans were in place to quickly send 70 trucks loaded with humanitarian aid to eastern Aleppo if all sides agreed on a truce.

"I'm not going to pretend. I'm angry, very angry," O'Brien told council members holding their third meeting on the crisis in Aleppo this month.

"As the UN's humanitarian chief, this callous carnage that is Syria has long since moved from the cynical to the sinful."

O'Brien renewed his call for a 48-hour pause in fighting in Aleppo, where the violence escalated sharply in July when regime forces surrounded the rebel-held east.

Up to 275,000 people in eastern Aleppo have been almost entirely cut off from food, water, medicine and electricity for over a month, while 1.5 million people living in the west of the city also face severe shortages.

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O'Brien welcomed the announcement from Russia, Syria's key ally, that it supports the call for the 48-hour ceasefire, but said all sides must sign on.

Once the needed security assurances are received, UN aid workers are ready to move 50 trucks of aid from western Aleppo to the east, and an additional 20 trucks from Turkey into eastern Aleppo, he said.

O'Brien urged all countries with influence, in particular the United States and Russia, which co-chair the international group backing the peace process in Syria, to rapidly reach agreement on a ceasefire deal.

Not a single aid convoy has reached Syria's besieged areas in August while airstrikes have hit hospitals and schools.

In July alone, there were 44 attacks on medical and health facilities throughout Syria, including attacks against five out of the nine hospitals in eastern Aleppo, according to the UN.

"This is a race against time, as fighting rages on, with ever more shocking reports of bombed hospitals and wrecked schools," O'Brien said. "Electricity is out, water is scarce, and movement is restricted."

He repeated his appeals for UN action, not just on Aleppo, but to end the war in Syria saying: "When hospital attacks have become the new normal, when medieval sieges of entire cities and neighbourhoods have become a lasting reality for hundreds of thousands of people, this council cannot look the other way."

Close to half a million people have been killed in the Syrian war that erupted in March 2011 and international efforts to end the conflict have faltered.