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As Image of Stunned Refugee Boy Fades, Aid Is Still Blocked

Stephen O’Brien, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, gave a powerful speech yesterday in light of what he calls the “apex of horror” that continues to devastate Syria.

His address to the UN Security Council comes less than a week after the image and story of the blood- and dust-covered 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh went viral. As millions shared the image of Omran all around the world, his brother passed away on August 21 — just days after an air-strike attack hit the building in which Omran and his siblings and parents were at the time.

Read More: Wounded Syrian Boy Is Brutal Reminder of the Refugee Crisis

Omran’s tragedy was not lost on O’Brien, who expressed his anger to the UN and shared insight into the the dire state of Syrian cities like Aleppo.

“I'm not going to pretend – I'm angry, very angry," O’Brien said. "This callous carnage that is Syria has long since moved from the cynical, to the sinful."

275,000 people are cut off from any form of humanitarian aid in the once thriving metropolis of Aleppo, which now barely stands and had been transformed into world’s center of crisis. Another 1.5 million people have only been able to receive limited supplies and help from humanitarian aid.

Those numbers are just reports of Aleppo. Throughout Syria, hundreds of thousands more affected by the war are left millions without food, water, shelter, and medical aid.

The current obstacles to humanitarian aid could be removed if Council members upheld their commitments to UN Humanitarian affairs. Countries like the US and Russia — co-chairs of the task for humanitarian aid and ceasefires appointed by the UN’s International Syria Support Group — can provide security and coverage to aid efforts. Instead, UN Security Council members are doing little.

He called out the policies and lack of action of the UN Security Council over the past five years as having contributed to the ongoing suffering of the Syrian people. The United States and Russia hold the power to significantly change the humanitarian situation.

Alluding to the death of Omran’s brother, he said, “That is the reality of what is at stake here in this chamber — not the politicking and imposturing, the power games and defensiveness — all we need is for the guns to fall silent.”

Read More: World Photo Day: These Images Define the Refugee Crisis

“As we sit here round this safe table, humanitarian rescue workers are risking their lives in search for those buried under the debris,” O’Brien said, emphasizing that peace is needed more than ever.