Humanitarian Officials Warn of Repeating Syria 'Tragedies' in 2017

PHOTO: A Syrian baby cries as Syrians live freely against all odds in Jarabulus after its cleansing of Daesh militants as part of Operation Euphrates Shield, in Aleppo, Syria, Dec. 24, 2016.PlayHalil Fidan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
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Some of the world's top humanitarian aid and refugees officials said in a statement today that "up to 700,000 people, including an estimated 300,000 children, still remain trapped" in 15 besieged areas in Syria.

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The officials -- from the United Nations, World Health Organization and World Food Programme -- called for "immediate, unconditional, and safe access" to children and families cut off from aid in the war-torn country.

They said that almost 5 million people, including upwards of 2 million children, live in areas "extremely difficult to reach with humanitarian assistance due to fighting, insecurity and restricted access."

The appeal comes one week before Russia, Turkey and Iran plan to co-sponsor Syria peace talks in Kazakhstan aimed at resolving the nearly six-year-long Syrian crisis.

President-elect Donald Trump, who is set to take office Friday, has indicated a willingness to work with Russia on resolving the crisis, and a spokesman for Trump said last week that Russia had invited Trump's incoming administration to attend the January 23 talks in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana.

"The horrors of the siege of the eastern districts of Aleppo have disappeared from the public consciousness -– but we must not let the needs, the lives and the futures of Syria's people fade from the world's conscience," the officials said. "We must not let 2017 repeat the tragedies of 2016 for Syria."

They called for "immediate, unconditional, and safe access" to children and families cut off from aid in Syria and said the world "must not stand silent while parties to the conflict continue to use denial of food, water, medical supplies, and other forms of aid as weapons of war."

The joint statement was issued by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan and WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin.