What Hope Is There for Syria's Besieged Civilians?
June 12, 2016
For nearly four years, Syrians in the town of Daraya have lived under siege at the hands of their government with limited access to food and medicine. The UN estimates that more than 500,000 Syrians are affected, but some groups like the Siege Watch Project put that figure at more than one million. Now government forces have dropped barrel bombs on a suburb of Damascus, just as it was set to receive its first food-aid delivery in four years.
What Hope Is There for Syria's Besieged?
After years of siege, Daraya residents get food aid, but attacks on Damascus suburb means relief could be short-lived
DARAYA (June 11, 2016) -- For nearly four years, Syrians in the town of Daraya have lived under siege, with limited access to food and medicine, at the hands of their government.
On Friday, they received their first food-aid delivery since 2012. But then came the barrel bombs, dropped by Syrian government helicopters. Residents say the bombardment prevented the food aid from getting to people who needed it.
Friday's aid delivery came after weeks of negotiations and international pressure on the government -- and Daraya is just one of several Syrian towns currently under siege.
The UN estimates that more than 500,000 Syrians are affected, but some groups like the Siege Watch Project put that figure at more than one million. With the government agreeing to let aid into more besieged areas, is a new chapter being opened in aid delivery? And how are sieges being used by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in this conflict?
Syria Civil War: Bombs Hit Daraya after Aid Delivery
Local council says at least 28 crude explosives dropped shortly after government gave UN access to 15 besieged areas
DARAYA (June 10, 2016) -- Government forces have dropped barrel bombs on a suburb of the Syrian capital Damascus, which received its first food-aid delivery in four years, according to local activists.
The reported violence on Friday came in rebel-held Daraya just hours after the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and the UN delivered food aid to its residents for the first time since it came under siege in 2012.
Writing on Facebook, the Local Council of Daraya said that at least 28 barrel bombs -- crude, unguided weapons that kill indiscriminately -- were dropped by helicopters.
Late on Thursday, the food-aid delivery came after the UN said the Syrian government had permitted access to 15 of the 19 besieged areas within the country. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights cited local sources saying that the distribution of aid within Daraya was not carried out due to the bombing on Friday.
Daraya has been under siege since November 2012 and has witnessed some of the worst bombardment during Syria's civil war, now in its sixth year.
Jean-Marc Ayrault, France's foreign minister, voiced outrage after the reports of barrel bombings. He accused Syria of "extraordinary duplicity", saying the government had finally granted access for aid after heavy international pressure "and then the bombing restarted".
The delivery of food supplies came a week after a joint convoy of the UN, the International Committee of the Red Cross and SARC reached Daraya and delivered medicine, vaccines, baby formula, and "nutritional items for children" but no food.
The UN estimates that there are currently 592,700 people living under siege in Syria, with the vast majority of them -- about 452,700 people -- besieged by government forces. Lifting the siege on rebel-held areas was a key demand by the opposition during indirect peace talks held in Geneva, Switzerland, earlier this year.
'One Meal per Day'
SARC said the delivery -- which included food, flour and medical supplies -- was coordinated with the UN in Damascus.
In a video posted online by media activists in Daraya, an official with the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) said the organisation had delivered about 480 food rations that would feed around 2,400 individuals for a month.
The official said he had met some beneficiaries of the food aid and community leaders. "The supply of the very basic commodities is very challenging, so as a consequence the prices of the commodities themselves are very high whenever they are available," he said. "As a result, most families are having to do with one meal, which is not complete as a meal, per day in order to be able to get by."
An amateur video posted online showed UN 4WD vehicles and white SARC trucks driving through sand barriers in the dark until they were met by opposition fighters. Photographs posted online by activists in the suburb showed UN and SARC officials meeting local dignitaries and men removing WFP boxes from a white truck.
According to photographs posted by local activists, among those joining the convoy into Daraya were Yacoub El Hillo, UN humanitarian coordinator for Syria, and Khawla Mattar, a spokeswoman for Staffan de Mistura, the UN special envoy to Syria.
The UN estimates that 4,000 to 8,000 people live in Daraya, which has been subject to a government blockade since residents expelled security forces in the early stages of the 2011 uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
Starvation as a Tool of War in Syria
Civilians in towns along the Syria-Lebanon border are struggling to survive
(January 3, 2016) -- Fighting from within, bombed from above, and now starvation.
Syria's struggling population continues to dwindle as lives are lost to war and hunger.
More than half of all Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance.
The UN says it is unable to help around two million children because they are blocked by fighting or siege.
In some areas, the price of food has skyrocketed so that a kilogram of rice now costs $100.
While civilians are starving in Syrian towns, the international community is stalled on a political solution.
Opposition groups are meeting in the Saudi capital of Riyadh this week. They are trying to determine who will be included in negotiations scheduled for later this month -- talks aimed at preventing Syria's civil war from going into a sixth year.
Inside Story takes a look at the besieged towns of Zabadani and Madaya, once popular resorts which are now in ruins, and asks who will ease the suffering of civilians still trapped in Syria?
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