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UN official: Conditions in Syria 'appalling'

Extensive damage was done after a rocket slammed

Extensive damage was done after a rocket slammed into a building, killing at least 12 people, in Aleppo, Syria. (Jan. 18, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

The humanitarian crisis in Syria continues to worsen, said a top United Nations official, as the 22-month-old conflict rages on with apparent no end in sight.

"What can I say, the state of living conditions for people now in Syria across the board are just quite appalling," said John Ging, operations director of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, at a briefing in Manhattan. "What strikes you most is when you go to the hospitals and you see how sick people are having to cope in medical facilities that are so seriously under-resourced."

Ging provided a report after a UN team visited conflict zones in Syria during a four-day tour.

He said as many as 2 million people have been displaced and another 4 million have been affected by the fighting that broke out in March 2011 during the so-called Arab Spring that spread across several countries.

The United Nations estimates that 60,000 people have been killed and 650,000 people have fled the country during the conflict.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week that Syria was in the grip of a "death spiral" and that the UN Security Council should overcome its longstanding "deadlock" on passing a resolution to help end the crisis.

Several resolutions have been vetoed by China and Russia.

"The military confrontation in Syria is exerting a tremendous toll on the civilian population," Ban said. "Well over 60,000 people have been killed. Yet the political environment remains polarized within Syria and across the region. A deadly military momentum prevails inside Syria, and among those States that are helping to fuel the conflict by sending weapons to one side or the other. I call again for such arms flows to stop."

Ging's team visited Homs, Damascus, Dera'a and Talbiseh and monitored the effect of the violence on the population, which he said was "weary and quite despairing," and the bridges, roads, telecommunications and electrical grid.

"We were also taken aback of the devastation of the infrastructure," he said, adding that both government and rebel forces have damaged the infrastructure.

The report comes just ahead of the International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria that is scheduled to take place Wednesday in Kuwait. Ban will chair the conference where UN officials are seeking $1.5 billion in humanitarian aid for the victims of the war.

"As this crisis gets worse, it's not just that people are suffering more," Ging said. "It also become more expensive."

Lakhdar Brahimi, Joint Special Representative for Syria, will brief the Security Council on the Syrian conflict at UN Headquarters Tuesday.

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