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Thursday July 17, 2014 MYT 5:20:03 AM
Thursday July 17, 2014 MYT 5:22:57 AM
by michelle nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. World Food Programme rushed on Wednesday to put monitors at Syrian border posts, and the U.N. children's agency UNICEF had aid ready for the first convoys to cross into rebel-held areas under the authorization of the U.N. Security Council.
The Security Council on Monday approved humanitarian access without Syrian government consent into opposition areas at four border crossings from Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, even though Syria has warned it deems such deliveries an attack on its territory.
The unanimously adopted resolution established for 180 days a monitoring mechanism for loading aid convoys in neighbouring countries, which will then notify Syria of the "humanitarian nature of these relief consignments."
Diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said this mechanism would likely involve a handful of monitors at each approved border crossing - Al Yarubiyah on the Iraq border, Al-Ramtha from Jordan and Bab al-Salam and Bab al-Hawa from Turkey.
U.N. aid chief Valerie Amos, WFP director Ertharin Cousin and UNICEF director Anthony Lake said WFP teams on the ground were urgently putting monitors in place on the Syrian border and that UNICEF had supplies, including blankets, syringes, water purification materials and hygiene kits, ready for delivery.
The joint statement did not say when the first convoys were expected to cross into Syria or at which border post.
"Hungry, homeless children don't know or care whether they are in a government-controlled area or an opposition-controlled area. They just want food and a safe place to live," said Amos, Cousin and Lake.
"We must do everything we can to help them, bringing aid by the most direct routes, whether they are across borders or across conflict lines, and this resolution will help us to achieve that," the joint statement said.
The United Nations has said that about 10.8 million people in Syria need help, of which 4.7 million are in hard-to-reach areas. At least 150,000 people have died in Syria's civil war, which is now in its fourth year.
The new resolution also authorizes aid deliveries across conflict lines.
Amos, Cousin and Lake described the resolution as a "breakthrough in our efforts to get aid to Syrians in need," saying that it would allow them to reach up to 2.9 million people with vital assistance.
Syria's government warned last month that delivering aid across borders into opposition-held areas without its consent would amount to an attack.
"We don't anticipate any major problems. Their ability to disrupt it is obviously limited given that they don't control the areas into which this particular aid will be going," said a senior U.N. diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Security Council acted on Monday because of the failure of a resolution it adopted in February demanding rapid, safe and unhindered aid access in Syria. U.N. diplomats said some 90 percent of aid deliveries were going to government-held areas.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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