U.N. Aid Chiefs See ‘Glimmers of Hope’ in Syria

The United Nations’ top humanitarian officials on Friday welcomed “fragile glimmers of hope” in Syria after a ceasefire allowed more aid deliveries, but warned this progress was “just not enough.”

In a joint statement issued ahead of the fifth anniversary of the war, the heads of aid agencies said they were “extremely concerned” about the situation in northern rural Homs and in Aleppo, where 500,000 people are caught behind frontlines.

In the past few weeks, “we are seeing signs of momentum, fragile glimmers of hope,” said the 11 signatories of the statement.

“Fewer bombs are falling; humanitarian access has opened up in some places; negotiators from all sides are preparing to come together and talk.”

“While we are starting to get basic supplies to communities who have been cut off from months or more, it is just not enough,” they said.

Among the signatories were U.N. chief Stephen O’Brien, World Food Program director Ertharin Cousin, UNICEF head Anthony Lake, High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi and World Health Organization director Margaret Chan.

A ceasefire brokered by the United States and Russia has allowed the United Nations to scale up deliveries of aid, providing help to civilians in hard-to-reach areas and to Syrians facing starvation in besieged areas.

Since the start of this year, six million Syrians have received aid through regular deliveries and special convoys to besieged towns, the statement said.

“Medical supplies and equipment are still being removed at checkpoints: this is unacceptable,” the statement added.

“We are able to reach more people now in besieged areas: but we are yet to reach one in every five besieged Syrians who urgently need help and protection”.

The signatories said they hoped the anniversary on March 15 of five years of war in Syria will be “the last one” and that talks under way in Geneva will bring “real peace and an end to the suffering in Syria.”

Other signatories were: William Lacy Swing, who heads the International Organization for Migration, Pierre Krahenbuhl from the UNRWA Palestinian refugee agency, U.N. Development Program chief Helen Clark and Samuel Worthington, CEO of the InterAction group of non-government organizations.

The U.N. envoy for children in conflict Leila Zerrougui and Zainab Bangura, the envoy on sexual violence in conflict also joined in the appeal for an end to the war.