Following the deteriorating situation in civil war ridden Syria, the United Nations has announced that it will be pulling out "all non-essential international staff" as fighting in the capital city of Damascus intensified.
The announcement came via a statement issued by the organization’s regional humanitarian coordinator, Radhouane Nouicer, who speaking to the UN news agency Irin said: "The security situation has become extremely difficult, including in Damascus. For as long as international humanitarian law is not full observed by all parties to this conflict and for as long as the safety of humanitarian workers is not strictly secured, UN agencies have to review the size of their presence in the country as well as the way they deliver humanitarian aid."
According to the UN, some 25 of its 100 international staff will leave by week’s end, although there is a total of 900 local staff working for the organization in Syria. It was also announced that the various UN teams stationed in the capital will be advised not to venture out as the armed conflict between the Syrian government and various rebel forces stepped up a notch, with heavy fighting around the capital’s airport, leading to its closure and bombardment of different parts in the east of the city. Noucier added that UN teams situated in the city of Aleppo will be relocated, saying, "The increasing insecurity is making it more difficult for humanitarian actors to operate and to address the needs of affected people. We are looking at how we can adjust our methods of work so that we continue to reach as many people in need as we can throughout the country."
During the civil war that has lasted nearly two years, eight UN workers have been killed, while other relief and aid organizations have also been affected, with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent having lost 18 of its volunteers, of which seven were killed while on duty.
The UN has not commented on exactly how much of its international staff will remain in the country but has repeatedly called for the conflict to end, with Noucier saying, “Most of all, we need an end to the unrelenting violence. All calls, from all sides, for parties to honor their obligations to protect civilians in Syria have had little effect, and ordinary people are paying the price."