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Urgent call to UN, Russia and US to save Daraya and deliver aid to all besieged towns in Syria
25 February, 2016
As the Humanitarian Access Task Force meets in Geneva there are reports that the town of Daraya, 6 km west of Damascus, will not be included in the ceasefire.
The Task Force for Humanitarian Access led by Jan Egeland made a commitment to oversee immediate aid access for those most in need and pressure relevant parties to allow aid deliveries into besieged and hard-to-reach areas.
Daraya, with a population 8,500, needs urgent access. It hasn’t received a UN aid delivery in three years.
Every day between 50 and 60 barrel bombs are launched upon the town of Daraya.
Ibrahim Kholani of Daraya Local Council said:
“Living in Daraya is like being trapped in a box. When the barrel bombs start the only place to hide is our basements. The regime has cut us off from the neighbouring town of Moadamiyeh, which was our lifeline.
“We reject the accusations from the Syrian regime that there are extremists fighting here. There is no Al Nusra Front or Isis here, we don’t have sectarian militias, Chechens or foreign fighters. All fighters here are from Daraya or the neighbouring villages – they are the people of this area.
“This tightening siege is a tactic employed by regime to empty Damascus of all opposition. Also we are close to Mazzeh Airport which is key for the regime. This is about control.
“The UN promised that Daraya would be included in humanitarian aid deliveries. So far have not received anything either from the ground or from the air. We last spoke to them a few days ago and they told us again Daraya would be included. Now we are devastated to see that we are getting nothing. A bag of rice in Daraya now is 10,000 Liras, or $40, if it is available.
“Everyone is terrified that we are on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe. In just a few weeks people will be starving because there’s no aid coming in, no medical supplies or equipment.
“So far we have managed to survive on our local agriculture, this has been our lung. But the farms have been bombed, and other access is almost impossible.
Bissan Fakih of The Syria Campaign said:
“90% of people under siege in Syria are yet to receive UN aid since the US and Russia pledged to facilitate immediate humanitarian access to besieged and hard-to-reach areas two weeks ago. The aid that was delivered will only last a matter of weeks.
Russia sits on the Task Force for Humanitarian Access and has immense influence over the Syrian regime, currently the biggest besieger. It must get serious about using its influence to allow aid based on need, not military convenience.
“The US and Russia have promised a nationwide ceasefire. To exclude Daraya, where there are no extremist groups, explicitly contradicts the terms of the agreement. If the regime is allowed to choose which areas it wants to continue bombing, this ceasefire will be over before it started.”
Elsewhere, medical access continues to be a critical need for all besieged communities. The hospital in the area of Al Marj in Eastern Ghouta was forced to shut when it was hit by a barrel bomb on the 18th of February. The hospital served some 55,000 civilians from 27 towns. While it was open it saw an average of 8,000 patients a month. Patients including the injured and the elderly are forced to walk up to 15km to reach the nearest medical centres in Douma. The area of Al Marj contains a military heliport.
Notes for Editors
- 6,600 barrel bombs have been dropped on Daraya between 2014-2015. 765 barrel bombs were dropped on the town in January 2016 and 650 so far in February 2016 (source: Daraya Local Council)
- There is one field hospital in Daraya catering for 8,500 people with very minimal supplies of medicine. 600 babies under two years old have not received routine childhood vaccinations (source: Daraya Local Council)
- 90% of people under siege in Syria are yet to receive UN aid since the US and Russia pledged to facilitate immediate humanitarian access to besieged and hard-to-reach areas on 12th February 2016. 1.1 million people live under siege in Syria (source: http://siegewatch.org)
- The Syria Campaign was established in 2013 as an independent advocacy group to focus on the protection of civilians in Syria. To maintain its impartiality, The Syria Campaign accepts no funding from governments or any group involved in the conflict https://thesyriacampaign.org