29 September 2016
Geneva, 29 September 2016
RER: Good afternoon and I apologize for keeping you waiting. We had a long, and difficult meeting of course, given what is happening on the ground, and particularly in Aleppo. But first allow me to convey the regrets of the Special Envoy who would have liked to be with us here today but as you probably already know, he is in the Vatican. The Pope is making an appeal about Aleppo and asked Mr. de Mistura to be with him today.
I will not be providing you as usual with a detailed political update, most of the action has been taking place in New York and other capitals, and that continues to be the case, so this time round we will concentrate only on the humanitarian side.
As I said earlier, Aleppo is overshadowing the deliberations of the Humanitarian Task force. The situation in Aleppo is utmost on our minds, the Secretary-General has expressed in the strongest possible terms, including yesterday in the Security Council, his outrage at what is happening. He and the Special Envoy have made clear that it the extremely heavy aerial bombardment is a major threat to the civilians in eastern Aleppo. Also there is indiscriminate shelling of western Aleppo. The bombing must stop, civilians must be protected and the cessation of hostilities must be restored. We reiterate once again United Nations repeated appeals in this regard, and call upon the co-chairs of the ISSG to work together to make the cessation of hostilities a reality once again.
Meanwhile, humanitarian actors on the ground are doing their best to help the people of Aleppo, and that is what we discussed today. The UN at the Task Force appealed to the members of the ISSG to help us discharge our duties.
Utmost in our minds is the need to address the very concerning medical situation. Many hospitals have been damaged by air strikes, and medical supplies are dwindling. It is estimated that there are as many as 600 wounded cannot be provided with adequate treatment. Just yesterday two of the remaining eight hospitals in eastern Aleppo were reportedly hit by shelling, taking them out of service. There are now no more than 35 doctors, covering a population of at least 275,000.
WHO has developed possible options for medical evacuations because that is the utmost priority at this point, is to evacuate the wounded, it is vital that they are able to make these evacuations happen as soon as possible.
Also food stocks are running low in Aleppo. Many bakeries remain closed and only 14,000 rations remain in eastern Aleppo, enough for only a quarter of the population. Basic infrastructure has also been affected such as the water and electricity, there is severe shortage in that regard too.
It is clear that humanitarian aid, especially medical items and medical evacuations are urgently needed. We hope that it will be possible to create conditions for such deliveries to be made. The UN continues to be ready to deliver humanitarian assistance as soon as possible.
As to the other deliveries beyond Aleppo, there has been some movement. There was a delivery to the four-towns on September 25th
, it took 150 days to clear that, I hope we do not have to wait another 150 days for another delivery. On September 24th
there was a delivery for 70,000 people in Al Waer, and on September 22nd
, there was a delivery to Moadameya, for 35,000 people.
But other deliveries were aborted due to heightened military activities, such as to Ar-Rastan on the 27th
and unfortunately yesterday, Duma, which was going to service 35,000 people, was aborted at the last check point and they are still waiting in Damascus today to go back to Duma and I hope it will happen sometime today, once all the necessary procedures are completed and agreed upon.
This is where we stand as of now. I will take a few questions.
Q. Yesterday United States threatened that it will stop its cooperation with the Russian Federation on Syria. How do you think this could affect the peace process and the talks?
RER: Well as I indicated earlier, I would like to restrict this press meeting to humanitarian affairs, but in a general sense of course, we continue to call upon both co-chairs to continue to work together, to find a way to resurrect the 9th
of September agreement. That has been our position and it remains our position and I think this is the best way out of this very difficult humanitarian and military situation in which the Syrians find themselves in today.
Q. You mentioned medical evacuations, how many medical evacuations you estimate are needed out of Aleppo?
RER: Well I am not sure we have the exact figure, but they are quite a number, I think probably in the hundreds I think, if I am not mistaken. They are in a very difficult situation. The situation in Aleppo is particularly difficult because now the city is very difficult to move in and out of it, there are not enough doctors, so given that situation, it is important for people to be evacuated so that they can be treated elsewhere, but inside Aleppo, due to the fact that hospitals are not operating as they used to because of the bombing, because there are not enough doctors, and not enough medication, I think that the best way and the priority, as far as the WHO is concerned, is to evacuate people.
Q. Russia this morning said they are willing to have a 48-hour humanitarian pause, and I wonder whether you have discussed that this morning and whether you think this is hopeful, since that is what you wanted all along, I think, and also just to be clear, I understand that from your point of view the US-Russia ceasefire deal is still in place, if not enforced, because nobody has said that it has been annulled. So is Russia in contravention of that deal or supporting that deal?
RER: Well in so far as, I think you are referring to the September 9th
agreement, this is something between the co-chairs. None of them has declared it over, and I understand they continue to find ways to make it work, that is as far as I can tell. Beyond that, I think it is up to the co-chairs.
The other question was on the 48-hour pause, well I think you need to clarify something here. The 48 hours are required for the actual delivery of the humanitarian aid in an area and then out. But of course you will need some preparation before that [Clarification
: The Deputy Special Envoy meant to say ‘procedures’.] So that we need to be very clear about. That is where things stand as of now.