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Opening of land route to Syria's battle-affected areas 'making difference' for aid delivery - UN agency

11 July 2017 – The United Nations refugee agency said today that the opening of the road to Syria's north-eastern Hassakeh governorate is already making a difference for humanitarian aid delivery on the ground.

"With the number of people displaced from and within Ar-Raqqa governorate now having passed 190,000 since 1 April, the opening of the road from Aleppo to Menbij and Qamishli is a breakthrough," said Andrej Mahecic, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), at a press briefing in Geneva.

The agency has completed a first series of humanitarian convoys by the vital land route to Qamishli, opening a new link in getting aid to those in need in battle-affected Raqqa. Prior to these convoys, the road had been closed for nearly two years due to fierce conflict. Costly airlifts, with limited capacity, were the only ways to bring supplies into the area.

The spokesperson said that UNHCR's first convoy of three trucks reached Qamishli on 29 June and delivered relief including tents, blankets, jerry cans and other essentials for thousands fleeing conflict in the area. A second convoy arrived on 4 July, a third reached its destination on 10 July, and a fourth convoy is on the way, he added.

In Ar-Raqqa governorate, about 430,000 people estimated to be in need of humanitarian aid, with between 30,000 and 50,000 people trapped in Raqqa city.

Availability of food, water, medicine, electricity and other essentials has been dwindling, with the situation rapidly deteriorating. It is imperative that trapped civilians are able to secure safe passage out – to reach safety, shelter, and protection.

"Many face the terrifying dilemma of having to decide between taking cover as fighting continues to rage, or taking their chances and running – risking death for themselves and their families either way," Mr. Mahecic said. "For civilians to be put into such a situation is an affront to the common humanity of us all."

He reminded all parties of their obligations to abide by international humanitarian law and protect civilians.

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