Aid convoys have not reached Syria’s besieged areas with desperately needed food and medicine for the past month, the UN envoy to the war-ravaged country, Staffan de Mistura, said Thursday.
In protest at the failure of warring parties to allow aid to reach civilians, de Mistura cut short the weekly meeting of the Geneva-based humanitarian taskforce, which is headed by the United States and Russia.
“Not one single convoy in one month has reached any of the humanitarian besieged areas,” de Mistura told reporters, blaming relentless fighting.
Thursday’s taskforce meeting lasted just eight minutes before it was “suspended”, de Mistura said, explaining that the move was symbolic and that the group would meet again next week.
The envoy re-issued the United Nations’ call for a weekly 48-hour humanitarian pause in Aleppo, where an estimated 1.5 million civilians are trapped as fierce fighting rages between Syria President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and rebels.
Aleppo, Syria’s second city and former economic hub, has emerged as a top concern for the UN and aid agencies since regime troops seized control of the last supply route into rebel-held areas in mid-July.
De Mistura said the 17 countries that make up the International Support Group for Syria (ISSG), which s it on the humanitarian taskforce, would hold another meeting later Thursday on the issue of a humanitarian pause in Aleppo.
Since the beginning of the year, the UN and its Red Cross partners have delivered aid to nearly 1.3 million Syrians living in areas defined as besieged or hard-to-reach.
But the movement of convoys has primarily been hampered by access restrictions imposed by Assad’s government.
Deir Ezzor, which is partially controlled by the Islamic State group, has continued to receive aid over the last month through World Food Programme air drops, de Mistura said.
Four besieged areas — Madaya, Zabadani, Foah and Kafraya — have not been reached by a convoy in 110 days, the UN envoy added.
More than 290,000 people have been killed and more than half the population has been displaced since Syria’s conflict erupted in March 2011 with anti-government protests that escalated into a brutal multi-front war.