Fresh plea to aid Syria’s starving children

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THE UN’s chief humanitarian official has asked the Security Council to approve cross-border relief operations into Syria to 
deliver aid to civilians.

Under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs Valerie Amos yesterday said the UN agency is currently hampered by Syria’s requirement that two Syrian government ministers must sign approval papers for every aid lorry allowed into the country. She said children are starving to death in Syria for want of food aid.

The Security Council has been deadlocked for months on the Syrian war. Western and Arab nations blame the conflict on Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s government. Russia insists on assigning equal blame for the suffering to the Syrian rebel opposition and has cast vetoes, along with China, to block draft council resolutions.

Human Rights Watch’s UN director, Philippe Bolopion, said in a statement that “as if blocking Security Council action to stop the killing was not callous enough, Russia and China also stand in the way of council efforts to press president Assad to open up access to aid”. He called for stepped-up cross-border relief shipments “with or without Syria’s consent”.

But Syrian ambassador Bashar Ja’afari stressed to the council “the exclusive responsibility of the Syrian government in protecting its citizens … in a way that safeguards its sovereignty.”

More than five million people have been displaced by the Syrian conflict, which began over two years ago. In the past few weeks, humanitarian agencies have separately warned that their resources are running low, and added that without additional funds they will be forced to scale back relief efforts.