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Syria: Time running out to protect those trapped in eastern Aleppo, UN aid chief warns

2 October 2016 – Warning of an urgent humanitarian situation in Syria's eastern Aleppo city, the United Nations humanitarian chief today reiterated a call for a cessation of violence, medical evacuation of hundreds of patients in critical conditions and safe, full, regular and unimpeded humanitarian access.

"I am deeply alarmed by the ferocious pummeling of eastern Aleppo city where an estimated 275,000 people are besieged," the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O'Brien, said in a statement issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which he heads.

"Indiscriminate bombing and shelling continues in a shocking and unrelenting manner, killing and maiming civilians, subjecting them to a level of savagery that no human should have to endure," Mr. added Mr. O'Brien, who is also the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.

He expressed concern that the health care system in eastern Aleppo is "all but obliterated" with medical facilities being hit one by one. He said he received reports of attacks on at least three hospitals including a pediatric hospital providing services to thousands of sick and injured children.

"The health system is on the verge of total collapse with patients being turned away and no medicines available to treat even the most common ailments," he warned.

With clean water and food in very short supply, the number of people requiring urgent medical evacuations is likely to rise dramatically in the coming days, he said.

Mr. O'Brien went on to highlight that with nowhere to hide, women, children and men in eastern Aleppo are terrified as they are subjected to bunker buster bombs, barrel bombs, mortar rounds and artillery shelling. Those who use such weapons in densely populated areas know that they will cause immense harm and suffering to civilians, yet they persist, he added.

He reiterated the demand that the parties and those who support them immediately bring about a cessation of all actions that can result in loss of civilian life or damage to essential civilian infrastructure; a medical evacuation system for eastern Aleppo so that the hundreds of critical cases can receive proper medical care; and safe, full, regular and unimpeded humanitarian access as obliged under international humanitarian law.

"We are in a race against time to protect and save civilians in eastern Aleppo city. They need our urgent action to bring an end to their living hell. Words are not enough," he said. "As humanitarians, we are committed and ready to reach all those who are trapped and slipping away into an unimaginable humanitarian catastrophe. The clock is ticking. Stop the carnage now."

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