Food running out in Syria's rebel-held northwest
In rebel-held areas of northwestern Syria, the most damaged by the earthquake that killed more than 3,500 people, very little aid arrived in the first five days as relief efforts were hampered by the more than decade-old civil war, even after the government in Damascus said Friday it would allow convoys to cross the border.
Many residents of the region had already been displaced from other parts of the country that were taken back by pro-government forces during the ongoing civil war but are now being made homeless again.
Dozens of planeloads of aid have arrived in areas held by the Syrian government since Monday but little has reached the northwest, the worst-affected area.
In normal times, U.N. delivers aid to the region across the border with Turkey via a single checkpoint, a policy that Damascus criticizes as violating its sovereignty.
The United Nations said it was rapidly exhausting the aid stocks it had in Syria before the devastating earthquake and needed quick resupply to support the millions affected.
"We are running out of stocks and we need access to bring new stocks in," Corinne Fleischer, the World Food Programme's Middle East regional director, said.
"Natural disasters don't know borders and nor does humanitarian aid. Let us be able to replenish our stocks in northwest Syria."
UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency, had 30,000 so-called core relief items -- mattresses, blankets, kitchen sets, plastic sheeting, jerry cans and sleeping mats -- and 20,000 tents pre-positioned in Syria before the quake.
"We have been distributing them since day one," said Sivanka Dhanapala, the UNHCR representative in the country.
"A lot of this is being sent out and now needs to be replenished as quickly as possible," he said.