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UN aid chief voices 'deep frustration' as medical evacuation plan for Aleppo scrapped

24 October 2016 – The United Nations humanitarian chief said today he is "deeply frustrated and saddened" that the UN and its partners have been forced to abort current plans to evacuate critically injured and sick people from eastern Aleppo, Syria's iconic city being razed by war.

A statement by the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O'Brien, comes after a three-day lull that followed Russia's latest unilateral announcement of a humanitarian pause to the bombing in eastern Aleppo.

On 20 October, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed Russia's unilateral pause in the bombing, saying that "this has helped pave the way for the implementation of the UN's medical evacuation plan."

"The UN and partners were ready to evacuate critically injured people over the last few days," said Mr. O'Brien, who is also the Emergency Relief Coordinator. "It is deeply regrettable that no patients or accompanying family members could be moved."

He explained that the UN and partners engaged in long and demanding negotiations, and endless rounds of clarifications on conditions and guarantees with all parties. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Syrian medical non-governmental organizations joined in the meticulous planning of the evacuations.

However, the evacuations were obstructed by various factors, including delays in receiving the necessary approvals from local authorities in eastern Aleppo, conditions placed by non-State armed groups and the Government of Syria's objection to allowing medical and other relief supplies into the eastern part of the city, he said.

"After three days of lull, parties to the conflict have still not agreed, military operations have resumed and violence is now escalating. The political and military paths are trumping basic humanity once again in Syria," he stressed.

"I am outraged that the fate of vulnerable civilians […] rests mercilessly in the hands of parties who have consistently and unashamedly failed to put them above narrow political and military interests," he said.

Due to the violence and besiegement, eastern Aleppo has not been reached with humanitarian assistance since early July of this year, he said, urging all parties to the conflict and Member States with influence over them to immediately work towards a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire so that life-saving humanitarian activities, including medical evacuations, can resume.

"As I have said before, we are facing an unparalleled humanitarian catastrophe in eastern Aleppo," he said.

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