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Syria: UN relief chief appeals for renewal of lifesaving cross-border aid operation

Syria: UN relief chief appeals for renewal of lifesaving cross-border aid operation

India Blooms News Service | @indiablooms | 20 May 2020, 07:14 am

New York/IBNS: The UN’s top aid official has urged the Security Council to renew a mechanism that provides lifesaving assistance to millions of desperate people in northwest Syria, through cross-border deliveries from Turkey.

Humanitarian Coordinator Mark Lowcock made the appeal on Tuesday during a virtual briefing to ambassadors in which he outlined the pressing need to keep the trucks rolling, amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

English News and Press Release on Syrian Arab Republic about Health, Protection and Human Rights, IDPs and Epidemic; published on 19 May 2020 by OCHA

“The cross-border operation for northwest Syria, authorized by the Security Council, is a lifeline for millions of civilians whom the UN cannot reach by other means. It cannot be substituted. Its authorization must be renewed”, he said.

“An early decision by the Council will avoid disruption of this vital operation and help humanitarian organizations continue the scale-up that the current needs and the prospect of COVID-19 demand. A delay will increase suffering and will cost lives.”

Staggering rise in deliveries

The cross-border operation is the sole means for the UN to bring assistance to northwestern Syria, where the humanitarian situation has deteriorated since December following a government offensive to root out extremists.

Lowcock said deliveries continue at record levels, Last month, 1,365 trucks made the journey from Turkey: a more than 130 per cent increase over April 2019.

The scale-up was necessary, he added, not only because of the staggering humanitarian demands and the need to prepare for the pandemic’s impact, but also because the cross-border operation is set to expire in less than two months.

The UN Secretary-General has recommended that it be renewed for an additional 12 months, having submitted a review to the Council ahead of schedule to prevent the disruption of aid flows.

“This decision cannot be left to the last minute”, Lowcock told ambassadors. “Too many lives are at stake.”

Overland aid reaches northeast

Turning to northeast Syria, Mr. Lowcock reported that last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) delivered some 30 tonnes of medical supplies to Qamishli by road.

This marked the first overland aid delivery by the UN health agency in two years.  Mr. Lowcock said while another 23 tonnes of aid is expected in the coming days, more needs to be done.

“The findings of the Secretary-General’s review of cross-line and cross-border operations are also clear with regard to the northeast”, he stated.

“A combination of more cross-border and cross-line access is required to sustain, and preferably increase, humanitarian assistance.”

UN boosts COVID-19 support

Meanwhile, the UN is supporting COVID-19 preparedness and response across Syria, where the authorities have so far confirmed 58 cases and three fatalities. While none have been in the northwest, the region remains at high risk of an outbreak.

The UN is also boosting efforts to expand testing capacity and case investigation, as well as infection prevention and control.

Although a UN humanitarian fund has already dispersed some $23 million for preventative measures, Lowcock said significant shortages in personal protective equipment and other medical items remain.

The UN Secretary-General recently called for the waiver of sanctions that could impede countries’ efforts to beat back the pandemic: a message echoed by his Special Envoy for Syria, who briefed the Council on Monday.

Lowcock has welcomed commitments to apply humanitarian exceptions to these measures.

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Erdogan's Turkey turns Hagia Sophia into a mosque again; UNESCO regrets #HagiaSophia, #Turkey, #Istanbul, #HagiaSophiaMosqueAgain Istanbul/IBNS: Hagia Sophia, Turkey's iconic monument, a UNESCO World Heritage and one of the central attractions of its capital Istanbul, is no longer a museum. It has been turned back as a mosque though some 1500 years ago it was built as an Orthodox Christian cathedral. Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque during the Ottoman time in 1453 while under Ataturk it was turned into a museum in 1935. The decision comes amid a growing rise of the Islamists in Turkey who had been demanding that it be restored as a mosque though Opposition leaders with secular credentials had been against the move. A top court in Turkey ruled that turning it into a museum in 1935 by modern Turkey's secular architect Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was illegal, paving the way for present Turkey president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to declare it as a mosque again and to open it for Muslim prayers. Erdogan made the announcement an hour after the court ruled the conversion to museum in 1935 as illegal and scrapped its status. "May it be beneficial," posted Erdogan on Twitter, sharing an official document on the change with his signature. UNESCO regrets In an immediate reaction, UNESCO said it "deeply regrets" the decision. UNESCO said it was "regrettable that the Turkish decision was not the subject of dialog nor notification beforehand". "UNESCO calls on the Turkish authorities to open a dialog without delay in order to avoid a step back from the universal value of this exceptional heritage whose preservation will be reviewed by the World Heritage Committee in its next session," the United Nation's cultural body said in a statement. Istanbul icon of beauty and wonderment According to Turkey's official tourism website, Hagia Sophia is a remarkable achievement in the history of architecture. and a living proof of mankind's revolt against the laws of physics and it calls it a monument whose importance transcends borders. It is one of UNESCO's World Cultural Heritage sites attracting millions of visitors across the world with its majestic grandeur

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Erdogan's Turkey turns Hagia Sophia into a mosque again 11 Jul 2020, 01:37 pm