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Unicef and WHO appeal for the lifting of siege on communities in Syria

Joint statement Dr. Ala Alwan WHO Regional Director and Dr. Peter Salama, Unicef Regional Director 

Last week’s delivery of urgently-needed humanitarian supplies(1)  to the besieged communities of Madaya, Foua’a and Kafraya is a welcome step for a population in desperate need. 

During the mission to Madaya, our teams met many distressed and hungry children - some of them severely malnourished, along with adults in a similar condition. The town’s population of 40,000 is being served by only two doctors, with a limited capacity to save the lives of civilians. Health and medical services including immunization are collapsing. Young children in Madaya have not been vaccinated against polio, measles and other diseases for close to ten months. 

Madaya is by no means unique. Across Syria, civilian areas are being held under siege in 15 different locations(2)  by various parties to the conflict. Around 400,000 people have been trapped inside these areas, sometimes for years on end, with highly constrained access to food, clean water, health and other basic services. Lives have been lost as a result, among children and the elderly in particular. 

Elsewhere in the country, more than four million people live in hard-to-reach areas with only sporadic access to humanitarian supplies. Siege and the denial of humanitarian access to civilians continue to be used as a tactic of war in violation of International Humanitarian Law.  

Malnutrition is a particular threat to children and people with chronic diseases trapped in these areas, making them more vulnerable to disease and longer-term under-development. Meanwhile, mothers who are malnourished are more likely to have malnourished children.

Unless humanitarian assistance is delivered promptly and on a regular basis to all besieged and hard-to-reach areas of Syria, malnutrition levels will continue to increase and more lives will be lost. 

The access granted for limited deliveries of humanitarian supplies is not enough. The immediate lifting of sieges in Syria is required, followed by assessments of health and other needs of the population, the provision of on-site medical and nutritional therapeutic care and the evacuation of the wounded and sick to be treated. 

WHO and Unicef appeal to all parties to the conflict to respect their obligations under International Humanitarian Law to allow and facilitate immediate and uninterrupted humanitarian access to all areas throughout the country.

Notes to Editors: 

(1) On Monday 11 January Unicef and WHO participated in two inter-agency convoys that delivered much needed supplies to Madaya, Fou’a and KafrayaUnicef delivered therapeutic and other nutrition supplies that included multiple micronutrients, high energy biscuits and therapeutic food and medication for the treatment of severe and moderate malnutrition. 

WHO provided 7.8 tons of medicines, medical and surgical supplies to Madaya and 3.9 tons to Foah and Kafray. It contained therapeutic food, antibiotics and medicines for non-communicable diseases.    

(2) Report of the Secretary- General on the implementation of the Security Council resolution 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014) and 2191 (2014), December 2015

For further information please contact the Unicef UK Press Office on +44 (0)20 7375 6030 or media@unicef.org.uk

About Unicef

Unicef is the world’s leading organisation for children, promoting the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.  

Unicef UK raises funds to protect children in danger, transform their lives and build a safer world for tomorrow’s children. As a registered charity we raise funds through donations from individuals, organisations and companies and we lobby and campaign to keep children safe. Unicef UK also runs programmes in schools, hospitals and with local authorities in the UK. For more information please visit unicef.org.uk

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