UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos [official profile] spoke on behalf of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs [official website] and encouraged [press release] the world on Sunday to do more to aid the besieged communities in Syria [BBC backgrounder]. According to Amos, violence in the country has affected more than nine million of the country's 21 million population and many individuals face an immediate threat of starvation as humanitarian aid has been blocked by government or opposition forces for months. Amos finished a visit to the capital city of Damascus on Sunday, where she witnessed large scale displacement of citizens and an urgent need for basic humanitarian needs such as shelter and food. Many families are living in abandoned buildings or makeshift shelters and there is increasing concern regarding the health of children and the inability to provide aid. Amos spoke with the Syrian government to develop plans to reduce the impact of violence on civilians and find ways to improve humanitarian access.
The Syrian Civil War [JURIST backgrounder] continues to threaten the lives of millions of citizens in the country and refugees have emigrated to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq in alarming numbers since 2011. Last month the UN investigated the use of chemical weapons [JURIST report] in Syria and found credible evidence that several more attacks occurred than previously reported. Also last month, the UN heightened its concern [JURIST report] surrounding the country in a report on global rights progress, citing Syria and the Central African Republic [JURIST news archive] as two major areas of instability. Earlier in December the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported growing evidence of crimes against humanity [JURIST report] in Syria. In October, Amos called for a cease fire [JURIST report] in rural Damascus to allow humanitarian agencies to evacuate all remaining civilians and deliver medical aid to conflict areas.