U.N. takes on critical humanitarian mission in Syria

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The U.N. said Monday it will conduct a major humanitarian operation in Syria, where nearly two years of conflict have left staggering daily death tolls and ravaged the economy and infrastructure.

“It has to be a big U.N. humanitarian operation in Syria. That is what the people expect of this mission,” said John Ging, the director of operations for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Accompanied by the senior emergency operations officials for eight U.N. agencies, Ging travelled to Daraa in the south, Homs in central Syria, and Talbiyeh, a nearby town besieged by the army for months.

All these cities are in the throes of civil war.

“We did not come here just to express our sympathy, our empathy, our solidarity. We came here to make a difference, and the people of Syria will be the judge. It’s action not words. That is our challenge,” he told AFP.

The anti-regime revolt, which broke out in March 2011 as a peaceful uprising and morphed into an armed insurgency under brutal repression, has left more than 60,000 people dead, the majority civilians.

Even as the windows of his office rattled amid the fierce bombardment against nearby Sultaniyeh district, a holdout of the rebels, provincial governor Ahmad Mounir Mohammed said he regretted the U.N.’s delay.

“We are pleased to welcome you, even if you have arrived too late. This delay should be attributed to political issues because otherwise I am sure you would have acted more quickly,” he said.

The governor explained he was referring to the hostile policies of Western governments towards the regime.

“Syria’s sovereignty must be respected,” he said, adding that “operations must be carried out without any politicization and internally displaced Syrians should be the first recipients of aid, rather than those in neighboring countries”.

“Syria is a country that has always received refugees and never in tents, contrary to what happens for Syrian refugees in other countries. We have always welcomed these refugees in our homes and the government has always helped. This is why we are proud,” he concluded.

Ging said: “Our mission is clear: There is a lot to do, it is urgent and we want to better understand how we can meet the expectations of the people to deliver humanitarian assistance quickly and effectively.”

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