Intensified fighting in Aleppo in recent days has cut off humanitarian access to most parts of the city.
DAMASCUS, Syria – Intensified fighting in Aleppo in recent days has cut off humanitarian access to most parts of the city, with the resulting shortages of food, medical supplies and other essentials threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians.
The battle for control of Syria’s largest city has seen a wave of bombardments in the past week, killing at least 235 people and injuring dozens including pregnant women and children, according to civil defense and humanitarian agencies.
One of the oldest and iconic cities on earth, Aleppo was Syria’s economic hub and largest population centre before the war. Since the battle for Aleppo erupted in July 2012, it has suffered massive destruction and is currently divided between the government-held west and rebel-held east.
The violence has damaged critical civilian infrastructure including hospitals and the city’s water and electricity networks, leaving residents across the city with little access to medical care and no mains electricity or water.
“We are seriously concerned about the grave and dangerous situation facing civilians in Aleppo.”
Humanitarian access to the estimated 250,000 to 275,000 civilians trapped in the eastern part of the city has been cut off since early July, after fighting closed the main access route in and out of the area.
Aid agencies reported that some food deliveries have reached those trapped in the east in the past 48 hours, but nevertheless shortages have reportedly led to rationing of supplies, lack of access to fresh produce and soaring prices for food and other essential commodities.
Meanwhile, heavy fighting in recent days has also cut off the main access route used by UN agencies to deliver aid to civilians in the western part of the city, raising fears that civilians throughout the city are effectively cut off from any assistance.
“We are seriously concerned about the grave and dangerous situation facing hundreds of thousands of civilians in Aleppo, east and west and in surrounding villages, trapped by a conflict that has already cost them so much,” said Sajjad Malik, the representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Syria.
“We have received reports from colleagues of shortages of food or medical supplies affecting all parts of the city, and without unhindered humanitarian access the situation will only deteriorate,” Malik added. “We call upon all parties to the conflict to respect and protect the lives of civilians, medical facilities, schools, water infrastructure and humanitarian workers, and allow humanitarian organizations to carry out their duties in safety.”
“We lived through the horrors of bombings … and now we’re going through it again.”
UN urged all relevant parties operating in Aleppo to agree to a cessation of hostiles that allows for sustained humanitarian access. At minimum, the UN requires 48-hour humanitarian pause or a full-fledged ceasefire so that the UN and partners have safe, regular and sustained access to people trapped behind the front lines.
The recent fighting has resulted in the displacement of thousands of people, according to UNHCR field staff inside Aleppo. The majority fled the so-called 1070 and Riyadah neighbourhoods, and while many are now staying with host families in other parts of the city, thousands are camped out in mosques, public gardens or on the streets.
UNHCR has been working to provide shelter and basic household items such as mattresses, blankets and other essentials to the recently displaced, alongside food, water and healthcare provision by other UN agencies.
One displaced resident in western Aleppo described the fear and desperation gripping the city following the latest wave of violence.
“We’ve witnessed fighting in the past years that amounts to full-scale war. We lived through the horrors of bombings, armed clashes, kidnapping, booby-trapped cars, snipers and shooting, and now we are going through it again,” he told UNHCR.