For immediate release 

For more information or interview requests please contact:

Henrietta McMicking [email protected] +44 7815 523 083

Besieged Syrians slam UN ‘complicity’ in denying aid to starving civilians 

14th January 2016

Civilian leaders in besieged areas denounce the UN’s role in the ongoing sieges affecting one million ordinary Syrians.

In a letter to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) signed by over 100 senior community figures, they accuse the UN agencies of being complicit in denying aid to starving civilians.

Writing to the UN Under Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O’Brien, the community leaders call upon the UN to defend its impartiality and deliver vital food and medical supplies to the people that need it most.

Signatories to the letter include representatives from local councils, the Syrian Civil Defence (White Helmets), rescue workers, medical organisations, representative of women’s groips and key activists.

‘Hunger continues to be a weapon of war’ 

The letter accuses the UN of chasing permission from the Syrian government to deliver aid that they do not even need.  UN Security Council Resolutions 2165, 2258 and 2191 authorise the UN, and its partners, to deliver aid without the regime’s consent.

The letter accuses the UN humanitarian department of “creating unnecessary hurdles while civilians starve”.

Towns haven’t seen ‘a single loaf of bread from the UN in over a year’ 

Many of the besieged areas close to Damascus, notably Ghouta and Douma, are only minutes away from UN warehouses full of aid.

Meanwhile the UN is delivering billions of dollars of aid to regime controlled areas, “By allowing the regime to veto aid to civilians in areas outside its control, you have allowed the UN to become a political tool of war.”

In eastern Syria, ISIS is laying siege to Deir Ezzor, trapping close to 200,000 civilians. Despite the siege the Syrian regime manages to fly into Deir Ezzor several times a day to resupply its own forces, but the UN is being denied access to the airport for aid.

‘[We] will never forgive UN staff who sit minutes away in luxury hotels, within earshot of the bombings’ 

The letter accuses UN representatives based in Damascus of having too close ties with the regime, who fear that by demanding that aid convoys be let through they will damage their relationship with the government of Bashar al-Assad.

“Mr O’Brien, your colleagues in Damascus are either too close to the regime or too scared of having their visas revoked”.


For more information or interview requests please contact:

Henrietta McMicking [email protected] +44 7815 523 083

Notes to editors

  1. According to the most comprehensive study of besieged areas in Syria, carried out by, over 1 million people are living under siege in Syria. People in these areas have no freedom of movement, no access to food, water or medical supplies beyond what they can smuggle in or resource locally. International aid reaches these areas extremely rarely if at all.
  2. UN Security Resolutions 2165  July 2014 “decides that all Syrian parties to the conflict shall enable the immediate and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance directly to people throughout Syria, by the United Nations humanitarian agencies and their implementing partners, on the basis of United Nations assessments of need and devoid of any political prejudices and aims,”
  3. UN Security Resolution 2258  December 2015 “Expressing further grave concern at the continuing and growing impediments to the delivery of humanitarian assistance across conflict lines … and noting in this regard that as of 31 October, only 27 out of the 91 inter-agency requests made in 2015 by the United Nations had been approved in principle by the Syrian authorities, and that between 2013 and 2015, the percentage of inter-agency convoys approved in principle declined from 65 per cent to 29 per cent,
  4. The Syrian government is blocking aid deliveries to 99% of the besieged population. This includes areas directly besieged by the government and its allies and also Deir Ezzor, which is being besieged by ISIS while the regime is denying access by air for aid deliveries to its airport within the siege
  5. The Syria Campaign is a global advocacy group campaigning for a free and peaceful Syria.

Open letter: