Syrian government and some opposition forces are preventing the delivery of humanitarian assistance to hundreds of thousands of civilians in areas under siege in Syria. Local activists and residents in the Damascus countryside and Homs told Human Rights Watch in phone interviews that people are suffering from an increasingly severe shortage of food and that people are dying from lack of medical care because of the siege.
The United Nations humanitarian chief, Valerie Amos, is to brief the UN Security Council on December 3, 2013, on the humanitarian situation in Syria. The Security Council should adopt a resolution demanding access for humanitarian organizations to deliver aid such as food and medicine to the besieged areas.
“People in Syria are desperate for food, shelter and health care,” said Philippe Bolopion, United Nations director at Human Rights Watch. “Access to besieged communities is a litmus test for real change in the relief effort, and the Security Council should make clear that Syria is failing that test.”
The Security Council issued a non-binding presidential statement on the humanitarian situation on October 2, calling on all sides to facilitate access. Humanitarian organizations have reported that the Syrian government has removed some bureaucratic obstacles but continues to bar access. The Security Council should ratchet up the pressure by adopting a binding resolution and making clear that failure to abide by it will result in targeted sanctions.
Human Rights Watch interviewed 11 local activists and residents from the Old City of Homs, Damascus, and in towns in the Damascus countryside, including Moadamiya, Douma, Yalda, Yarmouk, and Erbin.
The activists and residents said that the Syrian government has for months laid siege to their areas, cutting electricity and communications and preventing food, medicine, and aid workers from reaching civilians in need. Residents from south Damascus, Moadamiya, and Eastern Ghouta said that government forces have tightened the siege in the last several months.