Region | Syria

UN humanitarian chief shocked by devastation

She plans to secure access for aid organisations, which have been barred from the heaviest conflict zones

  • Reuters
  • Published: 00:00 March 9, 2012
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: AP
  • People mourn a relative moments after his death, killed by an army sniper, at a hospital in Idlib in northern Syria on Wednesday. The man was taken to hospital for medical aid, but died from his wounds. Activists reported reprisals in Baba Amr by Al Assad loyalists after the rebels withdrew. Syrian Arab Red Crescent aid workers who entered Baba Amr on Wednesday found it empty.

Damascus UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said Thursday she was devastated by the destruction she saw in Baba Amr district of the Syrian city of Homs and she wants to know what happened to residents there as result of an assault by government forces.

"I was devastated by what I saw in Baba Amr," Amos told Reuters TV after leaving a meeting with ministers in Damascus.

"The devastation there is significant, that part of Homs is completely destroyed and I am concerned to know what has happened to the people who live in that part of the city."

Amos, a Briton, is the first senior international figure to visit Baba Amr since the government launched its assault against opponents of President Bashar Al Assad.

Rebel fighters fled Homs a week ago after nearly a month of shelling by government forces.

Activists reported reprisals in Baba Amr by Al Assad loyalists after the rebels withdrew. Syrian Arab Red Crescent aid workers who entered Baba Amr on Wednesday found it empty.

Syrian state television broadcast footage yesterday of UN workers in blue bullet-proof vests and helmets taking photos of their crumbling surroundings, which the presenter said was Amos' team in Baba Amr.

Syria initially refused to grant Amos access to the country but relented after its allies Russia and China joined the rest of the UN Security Council in rebuking it.

Amos met Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al Mua'alem on Wednesday and an aide said he told the UN humanitarian chief she would be able to go anywhere in Syria she wished to.

Access

Amos' goal is to secure access for aid organisations, which have been barred from the heaviest conflict zones.

The United Nations estimates that more than 7,500 civilians have been killed in the government's year-long crackdown on an anti-Al Assad uprising while the opposition puts the number above 8,500. Meanwhile, the United Nations yesterday readied food stocks for 1.5 million people in Syria as part of a 90-day emergency contingency plan to help civilians deprived of basic supplies.

"More needs to be done," John Ging of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) told a one-day Syria Humanitarian Forum yesterday. "There is a huge amount of concern.

"The UN side of the humanitarian community is looking at the process of additional food stocks pre-positioned to target 1.5 million people," said Ging, who is chairing the meeting.

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