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As Syria conflict enters eighth year, UN agencies join call for peace and safe aid delivery

14 March 2018 - Two United Nations relief agencies on Wednesday joined a chorus of international organizations and partners in the quest to end seven years of conflict in Syria, urging warring parties to allow humanitarian access for the delivery of life-saving assistance to those desperately in need.

"Every day that goes by without a resolution to this crisis is another day where we have failed the people of Syria," Jakob Kern, World Food Programme (WFP) Representative and Country Director in Syria, said in a news release.

"The single greatest priority must be an end to this conflict. History will hold us accountable," he added.

The conflict, which is entering its eighth year, has brought intolerable suffering to millions of people. In many parts of the country, the violence has reached unbearable levels.

Every day, families under bombardment and shelling face a nightmare and more innocent lives are lost. More than a third of Syria's population is internally displaced.

With this continuous displacement come alarmingly high levels of hunger and need. Some 6.5 million people in Syria are food insecure and another four million people – twice as many as a year ago - are at risk of becoming so.

Since the conflict started, food prices have soared beyond the reach of many. Bread is now eight times more expensive compared to pre-crisis times. Today, a shocking seven in ten Syrians live in extreme poverty.

In 2017, UN-led humanitarian convoys reached 820,200 people inside Syria, according to UN relief agencies.

"We are humans. We are civilians. We do not deserve this. My children are hungry and have no food to eat," a resident in Eastern Ghouta told WFP during a rare delivery of humanitarian aid in February – rare because the fighting hardly ever lets up long enough for humanitarian convoys to reach the besieged enclave.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also renewed its call for the protection of health workers and for immediate access to besieged populations.

"This health tragedy must come to an end," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

"Every attack shatters communities and ripples through health systems, damaging infrastructure and reducing access to health for vulnerable people," he added.

Attacks on the health sector have continued at an alarming level in the past year. The 67 verified attacks on health facilities, workers, and infrastructure recorded during the first two months of 2018 amount to more than 50 per cent of verified attacks in all of 2017.

An estimated 2.9 million Syrians live in UN-declared hard-to-reach and besieged locations. WHO is providing health assistance to many of these areas but lacks consistent access.

Last year, WHO delivered over 14 million treatments across the country, including through cross-border and cross-line services.

"The suffering of the people of Syria must stop. We urge all parties to the conflict to end attacks on health, to provide access to all those in Syria who need health assistance, and, above all, to end this devastating conflict," said Mr. Tedros.

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