Thousands of Syrians living in dire conditions: UN

Sunday, December 02, 2012
UNHCR chief spokesperson Melissa Fleming briefing reporters in Geneva
[PHOTO: UNifeed] 
Geneva: Staff from the UN refugee agency have visited Homs this week and said thousands of displaced people are living in dire conditions in the conflict-battered Syrian city.

The UNHCR team, whose two-day mission ended on Thursday evening, said many people were staying in unheated communal shelters and they also reported that half of the city's hospitals were not functional and there were severe shortages of basic supplies ranging from medicine to blankets, winter clothes and children's shoes.

The team, led by UNHCR Representative in Syria Tarik Kurdi, also said the agency's partner, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), had registered 250,000 displaced people in and around the city, normally home to 1 million people.

"During their mission, the team met SARC counterparts and briefed local officials on UNHCR's operations in the area, including the provision of non-food aid supplies", the UNHCR spokesperson, Melissa Fleming, told journalists in Geneva. The team included UNHCR Syria's shelter coordinator to assess the feasibility to engage in shelter rehabilitation.

UNHCR, which has more than 350 staff in five locations across Syria, has been present since mid-November in the city, but has been providing assistance there through SARC since June. The team visited two communal buildings, one housing 70 families (400 individuals) and another one with more than 400 families, the largest such shelter in Homs.

In Jordan, arriving Syrian refugees continue to tell UNHCR they were targeted en route to the border.

"UNHCR calls on all sides to ensure that civilians have access to safe passage," Fleming stressed.  "Many families tell us that because the journey out is so dangerous that they are sedating their children along the way so as to suppress their cries and to mitigate the possibility that they will be heard as they're trying to escape and further targeted."

She went on to say ""We do have accounts from people that they have come as a family, come as a group of friends and some members of the group were singled out en route and didn't make it." -UNifeed
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