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'Horrified' By Destruction She Saw, U.N. Humanitarian Chief Presses Syria

Feb. 11, 2012: some of the damage in the Baba Amr district of Homs, Syria.
AFP/Getty Images
Feb. 11, 2012: some of the damage in the Baba Amr district of Homs, Syria.

There are stark words this morning from the U.N.'s top humanitarian affairs official about what she saw this week during a two-day visit to Syria. In a statement sent to reporters, Valerie Amos says, in part:

"I was able to visit Homs and parts of the suburb of Baba Amr, with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, so that I could see for myself the impact of the fighting. I was horrified by the destruction I saw. Almost all the buildings had been destroyed and there were hardly any people left there. I am extremely concerned as to the whereabouts of the people who have been displaced from Baba Amr.

"In Damascus, I met the Syrian foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, and other government ministers, and I raised my concerns regarding the humanitarian situation with them. We have agreed on a joint preliminary humanitarian assessment mission to areas where people urgently need assistance.

"While this is a necessary first step, it remains essential that a robust and regular arrangement be put in place, which allows humanitarian organizations unhindered access to evacuate the wounded and deliver desperately needed supplies. A proposal has been submitted to the government of Syria and I ask them to consider this matter with the utmost urgency."

As we've said previously, the United Nations estimates that more than 7,500 people have died in the year or so since protests began against the regime of President Bashar Assad — and most of the casualties are thought to have been at the hands of government forces.

In Ankara today, Reuters reports, "Amos said she had asked the Syrian government for unhindered aid access to worst-hit areas, but the Syrian government had requested more time."

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.