The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is responsible for managing the international community’s responses to crises, including natural and man-made disasters. Their job is basically impossible if they are denied visas to enter a country in crisis. Alas, that seems to be what happened today when Valerie Amos, the UN’s top humanitarian official, was blocked from entering Syria.
Amos said in a statement that the refusal came “despite my repeated requests to meet Syrian officials at the highest level to discuss the humanitarian situation and the need for unhindered access to the people affected by the violence.”
“Given the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation, with an increasing need for medical assistance, food and basic supplies, improving access, so that assistance can reach those in urgent need, is a matter of the highest priority,” she said.
A considerably higher profile international official, Kofi Annan, is expected to try and travel to Syria in the coming days as part of his role as a joint UN-Arab League envoy to Syria. Alas, Syria could just as easily prevent him from setting foot on Syrian soil.
Amos’ aborted trip to Syria is likely to add political pressure on China and Russia as the western members of the Security Council contemplate a new effort at the council to pass a resolution. This time, the resolution will probably not address the roots of the conflict or address a political solution. It wont call for Assad to step aside, for sanctions or an ICC referral. It might not even condemn the regime’s violence. Rather, the draft will focus exclusively on humanitarian access to besieged Syrian civilians.
The resolution will probably disappoint people who are looking for a more aggressive international response, but a narrowly focused Security Council drive for humanitarian access would be harder for the Russians to veto. If the resolution passes, and is implemented, the wounded and suffering people of Homs might finally get some relief. It is an interim solution to an immediate humanitarian challenge.