‘We are not giving up,’ despite evacuation failure – UN envoys on Syria

A boy, displaced from the ongoing conflict in Syria, sits and reads a book in the rubble of destroyed buildings.
Photo: UNICEF/UN029875/Al-Issa

27 October 2016 – Expressing their disappointment that the sick and wounded were not evacuated from Syria’s war-torn eastern Aleppo, the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria and his Senior Advisor today vowed to press on with their efforts to extract those with medical emergencies and get assistance to those with desperate needs inside the city.

“This is a dirty, ugly, horrible war, so we should never be surprised when things go wrong, over lack of trust, or pre-conditions that are put by either side,” Staffan de Mistura, the UN Special Envoy on Syria, told the press following a humanitarian taskforce meeting on Syria, in Geneva today.

The International Syria Support Group (ISSG) has established the respective taskforces on humanitarian aid delivery and a wider ceasefire. They have been meeting separately since early this year on a way forward in the crisis. Russia and the United States are the co-chairs of the taskforces and the ISSG, which also comprises the UN, the Arab League, the European Union and 16 other countries.

Underscoring their resolve to continue to push on for the people trapped in the city, Jan Egeland, Senior Advisor to Mr. de Mistura, added: “[…] We are not giving up […] You cannot tell Fatima, age eight, that she cannot get treatment outside the besieged area because conditions are not met on many other areas.”

Mr. de Mistura also informed the press of the support from the countries at the taskforce meeting as well as their appreciation of the role of the UN humanitarian actors on the ground, including the Humanitarian Coordinator Ali Al-Za’tari.

At the briefing, Mr. Egeland further emphasized that both the evacuations as well as getting food and medical aid into the city are important humanitarian operations and not allowing either of these to proceed is a violation of humanitarian law.

He also reiterated the Special Envoy’s message of unanimous support from all countries at the meeting, including from Russia, the United States to try humanitarian again, on all fronts.Eastern Aleppo has not received humanitarian supplies in large quantities since the end of June.

Mr. Egeland also told the media that there had been some progress in other areas, including reaching over 180,000 people in some besieged areas in Al Waer, Moadamiyeh, Duma, and by air drops Deir-ez-Zor.

But he added that surgical supplies were still not allowed to be delivered.

Mr. Egeland further noted that, meanwhile people’s lives continued to be in balance in a “tit-for-tat” between Government and the opposition groups on allowing humanitarian supplies.

“This has also meant that […] 54 patients, 27 in Foah and Kefraya, 27 in Madaya are waiting to be evacuated and they are not. One young person died in Madaya while they are quarrelling on other issues,” he said.

Expressing hope the issues holding back a response are resolved, he called on all parties to the conflict to help humanitarian actors alleviate the suffering of the people, particularly given that winter is approaching.

“I fear it will be a very, very cold winter for too many,” he said.