Aid operations are largely unable to reach the opposition-held north of Syria, U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said on Tuesday, despite the U.N. saying it has stepped up its operations elsewhere in the country.
“We are watching a humanitarian tragedy unfold before our eyes,” Amos told a news briefing late Tuesday. “We must do all we can to reassure the people that we care and that we will not let them down.”
“Cross-line operations are difficult but they are do-able.
“We are crossing conflict lines, negotiating with armed groups on the ground to reach more in need. But we are not reaching enough of those who require our help. Limited access in the north is a problem that can only solved using alternative methods of aid delivery,” Amos said, quoted by Reuters news agency.
Some 70,000 people have been killed in the nearly two-year-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad that has also sent 860,000 refugees fleeing abroad, according to the world body.
In the last few weeks, the U.N. refugee agency reached the northern opposition-held Azaz with aid for the first time. The World Health Organization has delivered vaccines in many opposition-held areas, Amos said.
Syrian opposition representatives told the United Nations this week that some three million people living throughout rebel-held territory require international assistance, she said.
The Syrian government still refuses to allow U.N. convoys to cross from Turkey into northern Syria, as most border crossings are controlled by the Free Syrian Army, she said.
Four million Syrians were deemed in need of aid late last year, but the situation has deteriorated since due to shelling, inflation, and shortages of food and medicine, she said.
Amos held talks with Suhair al-Atassi, a vice president of the opposition Syrian National Council, on Monday. Syrian deputy foreign minister Hossam Eddin attended the closed-door Geneva forum on Tuesday but opposed the rebels taking part, she said.
The Syrian government has agreed that 3 more international agencies could deploy aid workers - Mercy Corps, NRC and Merlyn - bringing the total to 11, but still not enough, Amos said.
“With respect to the Turkish border, I have spoken to the (Syrian) government on a number of occasions about allowing us to bring in supplies across that border. My last conversation with them was yesterday. The answer remains no,” Amos said.
The U.N. must uphold General Assembly resolutions requiring consent of a government to allow relief goods to be imported, unless authorised by a Security Council resolution, she said.
In Jordan, Syrian refugees have begun entering the country through illegal crossing points.
“The Syrian refugees enter Jordan through 45 crossing points along the 373-kilometre (231-mile) border,” the head of Jordanian border guards, Brigadier Hussein Zayud, told AFP news agency.
“More than 89,000 refugees, including 2,786 injured, have arrived in Jordan since the beginning of this year,” he added.
Jordan says it is hosting around 380,000 Syrians, expecting their numbers to grow to 700,000 this year, while work is under way to open a second refugee camp for them.
The United Nations has warned that refugee numbers in countries neighboring Syria could reach 1.1 million within months.