Ambassador Samantha Power
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations New York City
April 5, 2016
AMBASSADOR POWER: Hi. I just want to say a quick word about this session that we called today to get an emergency briefing on the fate of Syrians who are living in besieged areas and hard to reach areas that haven’t been reached. Stephen O’Brien briefed. It was extremely chilling, heartbreaking. He described this boy [holds up picture of emaciated boy from Madaya] who the UN tried to get evacuated yesterday – this is a boy who’s in Madaya. Madaya is the town, of course, that precipitated a lot more global attention to the starvation, and it has been reached, but this is still what someone in Madaya looks like. And because the Syrian government refused his evacuation, he died yesterday.
QUESTION: How old was he?
AMBASSADOR POWER: I’m not sure. We can get back to you.*
AMBASSADOR POWER: Let me just finish if I can, because then I’m going to have to go, unfortunately.
The situation in Daraya, specifically, is one that generated a lot of outrage and heartbreak. This is a town that has not been reached since 2012. Not one crumb of UN food has reached Daraya since 2012. So we’re also in a situation where access has improved over the course of the year compared to this time last year, but the baseline last year was totally unacceptable. It was reaching 1 percent of people in besieged areas, I mean these are not statistics that we should compare current rates of access to, they’re an abomination for a Member State of the UN to be blocking food in the way that the Syrian government has done.
The human reality of the lack of access to Daraya is not only skeletal images of the kind that I’ve shown from Madaya, but also mothers who are too malnourished to nurse their newborns and who rely on baby formula, but then baby formula doesn’t actually come into the besieged area. And in the very rare cases it gets smuggled in – in Daraya you have a situation that the shelling has polluted the water, and so mothers don’t actually have reliably clean water with which to mix the infant formula. And so imagine, again, being a parent in that kind of circumstance.
So we, and other Council members, have appealed to those with influence over a government that has proven itself susceptible to influence when the pressure is intense enough. That’s why the limited access that has been granted, has been granted. And it’s going to take a very, very large push to change the trajectory for people who are this malnourished and who have not been reached in so long. And I would note it’s very significant, less food aid reached people in besieged and hard to reach areas in the month of March than reached them in the month of February. And so we need the trend lines going in a much different direction; every besieged area needs to be reached, all those in hard to reach areas need to be reached, and we are a long way from that.