The Straits Times
Published on Feb 01, 2013

420,000 people in Homs desperate for humanitarian aid: UN


GENEVA (AFP) - Some 420,000 people - half of them children - in the hard-hit Syrian region of Homs are in desperate need of humanitarian aid, the UN's children's agency said Friday.

"These people need life-saving assistance," UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado said, pointing out that many of the 420,000 people most in need of help were living in "shelters with blasted-in windows." "It's extremely cold, and you have 20 to 25 families in a room... These are harsh conditions for kids," she lamented, stressing that an acute lack of access to safe water and hygiene facilities coupled with children missing vaccinations was a recipe for disaster.

UNICEF staff took part in a UN joint mission to the devastated area last month, which determined that in addition to those most in need of aid, another 280,000 people were severely affected by the conflict.

Nearly one in three people in Homs, or some 635,000 people, had been displaced, Mercado said, adding that two-thirds of the displaced were under the age of 18.