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Syria: "Behind the broken windows... lives have also been shattered"

18 Aug 2015

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UN aid chief Stephen O'Brien visited Homs and met with conflict-affected families and aid workers. In the Old City, where Government troops and militant continue to battle over territory, almost every home has been destroyed. Credit: SARC/Abdulaziz Al-Droubi
 
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As the brutal conflict in Syria continues, civilians bear the brunt of the violence. UN relief chief Stephen O'Brien went there to see first-hand the constant targeting of homes, markets, schools and hospitals.
As the relentless and brutal conflict in Syria continues, civilians consistently bear the brunt of the violence, with bombs daily targeting families in their homes, in markets, schools and kindergartens, hospitals and places of worship.
 
Last week, air strikes hit the central market in Douma, a besieged suburb of the capital, Damascus, killing dozens of people and injuring hundreds more in one of the deadliest air strikes by the Government since the onset of the four-year war. “I am absolutely horrified by the total disregard for civilian life by all parties in this conflict,” said the UN’s humanitarian chief, Stephen O’Brien after a trip to Damascus and Homs last week
 
In Homs, where Government troops and militant continue to battle over territory, almost every home in the Old City has been destroyed. "Behind the broken windows of each destroyed home, I was sharply conscious that there had been people whose lives have also been shattered," said Emergency Relief Coordinator O'Brien. 
 
Entire neighbourhoods have also been destroyed in the ancient city of Aleppo, and for weeks now, people here have had no access to water.
 
Some 4.6 million Syrians are in hard-to-reach or besieged areas, either blocked off from accessing aid at all, or able to access help to meet only a fraction of their needs. Warring parties who are attacking civilians, besieging entire communities, detaining and torturing civilians, attacking aid workers and aid convoys, as well as civilians buildings do so with almost complete impunity. 
 
In 2015 alone, one million Syrians have been forced to flee their homes, some of them for the second or third time, adding to the 7.6 million people already internally displaced. Another tragic milestone was recorded when the number of registered refugees reached four million in early July – the largest refugee population from a single conflict worldwide in over a quarter of a century.
 
Amid these conditions, aid workers – the vast majority of them Syrian – continue to try to reach populations in need, be it across borders or across lines of fire, battling danger at every turn. They do so with severely inadequate resources: just 30 per cent of the 2015 humanitarian appeal has been funded
 
"I ask the members of the international community to step up and provide us with the resources for our essential life-saving and protection work," said O'Brien. "People across Syria are counting on it."