Syria has agreed to allow the United Nations and international agencies to expand humanitarian operations in the country, where at least 1 million people need urgent assistance after 15 months of conflict, a senior UN aid official said on Tuesday.
The UN is to open field offices in four violence-plagued provinces, including Deraa, Deir al-Zor, Homs and Idlib, and Syrian officials have pledged to accelerate the granting of visas for aid workers and customs clearance for relief goods, he said.
At least 500,000 Syrians are internally displaced in their country and many have lost their homes, according to the Syrian Red Crescent. More than 78,000 Syrians have fled to Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, the U.N. refugee agency says.
The United Nations hosted the one-day Syrian Humanitarian Forum, the third in a series, to try to expand access to hungry, sick or wounded civilians in the country reeling from an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
UN aid agencies have been largely shut out of Syria but have tried for months to launch a large-scale aid operation. The plan, drawn up after an assessment mission carried out with Syrian officials in March, had stalled since.
Under the agreement, procedures are to be streamlined for giving visas to aid workers from nine UN agencies and seven international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) already helping Iraqi and Palestinian refugees in Syria.
Advance teams are going to the four provinces this week.