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U.N. draws up Syria aid plan to feed 1.5 million

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations is readying food stocks for 1.5 million people in Syria as part of a 90-day emergency plan to help civilians deprived of basic supplies after nearly a year of conflict.

The world body awaited the results of a three-day visit to Syria by U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, who is seeking to gain access for its aid agencies which have been shut out.

"More needs to be done," John Ging of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) told a one-day Syria Humanitarian Forum on Thursday. "There is a huge amount of concern."

The United Nations has drawn up a 90-day aid plan of $105 million likely to translate into a funding appeal to donors, diplomats and U.N. sources said.

"The U.N. side of the humanitarian community is looking at the process of additional food stocks pre-positioned to target 1.5 million people," said Ging, director of OCHA's coordination and response division who chaired the meeting.

Ging, speaking later to reporters, said that aid agencies and donors were united in wanting to help, but faced challenges.

"All of us know that we should be judged on the result on the ground. We're working very hard on the humanitarian community side to deliver a better result for the people of Syria. That's the simple bottom line."

Ging said that he was pleased that Syria's ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Faysal Khabbaz Hamoui, had taken part in the talks. Ging is to issue a chair's statement on Friday.

"You have to start somewhere, you are not going to make progress if you are talking to yourself," Ging told reporters.

"Valerie Amos is in Syria at the moment engaged in a very important mission there...We're all anxious to see the outcome."

FOOD DISTRIBUTION

The U.N. World Food Program (WFP) said it had distributed some food supplies in Syria through local aid agencies, but had not reached people in the areas worst hit by the violence.

"Our focus is to prepare support potentially to 1.5 million of the conflict-affected population initially through food distribution and also potentially through a voucher program when it is feasible," WFP's Lauren Landis said.

The U.N. estimates more than 7,500 civilians have died during President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on the uprising.

Syria's ambassador Hamoui, backed by its ally Russia, accused armed groups of attacking infrastructure, including schools and medical facilities, and causing massive destruction.

"Rebel groups attack, kill, torture and intimidate the civilian population. The flow of all kind of terrorists from some neighboring countries is always increasing. Most of the militants are directly or closely affiliated with al Qaeda," Mikhail Lebedev, Russia's deputy ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, told the talks.

Ging described the situation in Syria as "very fluid" and said the capacity of Syrian health services to provide trauma care and medicines must be restored. Water systems damaged during shelling of residential areas must be repaired.

U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state Kelly T. Clements urged all sides to allow immediate, safe and unhindered access.

"Safe access to affected areas, in order to identify the greatest needs and deliver needed assistance is still not permitted by the Syrian regime," she said in a statement.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the only international agency to deploy aid workers in Syria, also took part in the meeting that lasted three hours.

"Humanitarians have to step in," said Claus Sorensen, director general of the European Union's aid department ECHO.

"The purpose of this meeting is to give an answer to the immediate suffering ... It is about getting access, access and access - that is a precondition for actually providing any type of relief," he said.

Hamoui said: "Syria is not undergoing a humanitarian crisis". His country was still exporting farm and industrial products, including livestock.

Kofi Annan, the U.N.-Arab League special envoy on Syria, said on Thursday he would urge President Assad and his foes to stop fighting and seek a political solution.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay and Tom Miles; Editing by Maria Golovnina)

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