Six months ago, the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) promised full access to aid across all of Syria.
But, after being cut off from assistance for the last three weeks, more than 300,000 civilians in Aleppo and an estimated 60,000 in the Manbij area are facing desperate conditions.
While the ISSG meets in Geneva, 24 aid agencies working in Syria have issued a warning about the rapidly worsening humanitarian situation. Front line advances in Manbij have led to thousands of civilians being cut off from aid and forced to flee their homes. In Aleppo, where five medical facilities have just been bombed, the last supply route into the opposition-held part of Aleppo was cut off on July 7 by the Syrian army, barring entry for humanitarian staff and supplies. Food supplies there are expected to run out over the next few weeks. A food warehouse was also targeted with almost 10,000 food parcels destroyed, while fuel—essential to power medical facilities and water pumps—is running dangerously low.
In Daraya, the Syrian government and allied forces’ further advances towards the town on July 11 has cut off 4,000 civilians from water and farmland. Daraya has been besieged by the Syrian government for more than four years, forcing the local population to survive on inadequate local food production. People are already suffering from acute malnutrition in what is threatening to turn into another Madaya, where severe besiegement led to at least 86 deaths due to starvation last December—and now civilians’ remaining consistent source of food is gone.
In Idleb, airstrikes have increased dramatically over the last few weeks, destroying houses and other civilian infrastructure, and forcing around 3,500 families to flee.
The UN has reached or has received approval to enter all the besieged areas since the ISSG was set up. However, on February 11, the ISSG said that access to besieged areas is only the “first step toward full, sustained, and unimpeded access throughout the country.” In these areas, supplies are running out and families will begin to starve unless the armed groups on the ground allow the distribution of humanitarian aid. Meanwhile, the parties responsible for this are becoming bolder in committing their violations.
In the joint press release, Oxfam and 23 other organizations urged the ISSG to act: “We remind all the governments involved—particularly the US and Russia as co-chairs of the ISSG convening in Geneva today—of their responsibility to oversee the immediate implementation of UN security council resolution 2258 calling for unrestricted humanitarian assistance across all of Syria. We need cessation of hostilities so that aid can go in. The UN Security Council needs to hold all parties to the conflict accountable for breaches to international law, ensure full accountability for war crimes and other serious violations, to stop the prevailing culture of impunity and end the free-for-all carnage, while all countries should allow those fleeing the violence in Syria to seek asylum.”