As evacuations resume in Aleppo, UN prepares to redeploy staff to monitor process
20 December 2016 – As the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) resumed this morning evacuations from besieged neighbourhoods in eastern Aleppo, the United Nations reported that it has received authorization to send 20 international and national staff to the city to play a critical role in the monitoring and the response.
"This will almost triple the number of international staff currently deployed to Aleppo," Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told the regular news briefing in Geneva where he informed reporters of the Syrian Government's decision to "unblock" the 20 staffers, who were already in the capital, Damascus, to be redeployed "as soon as possible to Aleppo."
He noted that perhaps 100 UN staff members are already in western Aleppo and ready to deploy to the eastern districts.
Mr. Laerke praised the efforts of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and ICRC, who have been overseeing the evacuations in Syria. As of 9:20 a.m. local time today, the organizations had escorted 10 buses from the Ramouseh checkpoint to Khan al-Assal in western Aleppo. Nearly 19,000 people have been evacuated out of east Aleppo since the evacuations began on 15 December and more buses are expected to transport civilians out of the city today.
According to the spokesperson, the operation will continue until all those who need and wish to leave have been able to do so safely and with dignity.
Yesterday, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution to enable the UN and its partners to carry out monitoring activities on evacuations from eastern Aleppo, report on such operations, and deploy additional staff. It "demands all parties to provide these monitors with safe, immediate, and unimpeded access."
The resolution opens the door for evacuations and humanitarian assistance. It also requires the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report to the Security Council within five days on the implementation of the text.
Alessandra Vellucci, Director of the UN Information Service in Geneva, noted that the resolution followed a dramatically more difficult situation on the ground, as well as Mr. Ban's assessment that the city had become "a synonym for hell."
A spokesperson for the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that so far, 301 patients have been medically evacuated (43 yesterday) to hospitals in Idlib, rural western Aleppo, and Turkey. UN partners and non-governmental organizations in Gaziantep and Idlib province are receiving people as they arrive and providing urgent humanitarian assistance, including medical care for the sick and wounded.
A team of 233 staff members from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is also providing assistance with non-food items such as health, emergency, and shelter kits in Aleppo.
Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), reported that the UN had no indication of people moving across the border to Turkey and that refugee camps in the country were being run by Turkish authorities. However, UNHCR has stockpiles in place and ready for an additional 100,000 people should the situation change.
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