Republican presidential candidate John Kasich today spoke out against the blockade of humanitarian aid in Syria. In a town hall meeting in Atkinson, New Hampshire Governor Kasich said, “Men, women and children are dying of malnutrition” inside Syria.
The Syrian regime, backed by Russian bombings, is preventing humanitarian convoys from reaching besieged cities. Kasich’s remarks came while answering a question about nuclear weapons reductions with Russia. You can view the video of the remarks here.
Malnutrition causes lasting physical and mental damage in children, or death. Humanitarian agencies like UNICEF try to bring the children life-saving food, such as the enriched peanut paste Plumpy’nut. Tragically, they are often blocked by military forces from reaching Syrian cities.
Peace talks in Geneva between the Syrian government and the rebels have stalled. Meanwhile, the Russian bombings of the opposition are escalating the conflict and displacing more civilians.
The five year civil war has killed hundreds of thousands and left over 13.5 million in need of humanitarian aid. Those in the besieged areas are the most desperate.
Ertharin Cousin, the director of the UN World Food Programme, told the UN Security Council ” we estimate that there are 18 besieged areas and close to half a million people completely cut off from food and other crucial humanitarian assistance. In many of these areas, people are running out of food or may have already run out of food.”
Children have starved to death in the besieged areas, sometimes within miles of life-saving aid. Over 100 humanitarian organizations appealed last month for “unconditional, monitored ceasefires to allow food and other urgent assistance to be delivered to civilians, vaccinations and other health campaigns, and for children to return to school.”
A nationwide ceasefire, with humanitarian access, is the first goal of the Geneva talks. However, the talks are not expected to resume until later in February.
Kasich is campaigning ahead of the New Hampshire primary next Tuesday. A Republican debate is also scheduled for Saturday.
The war and hunger in Syria is one of the top foreign policy issues facing the candidates. Largely as a result of the Syrian conflict, there are more war refugees globally than anytime since World War II.