The humanitarian situation in Syria is worsening and the number of people needing urgent help has reached 10.8 million — almost half of Syria's population of 22 million, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday.
Ban's monthly report to the U.N. Security Council said the current estimate of 3.5 million people living in areas that are difficult or impossible for humanitarian workers to reach is likely to have increased to 4.7 million people.
He also urged the Security Council to impose an arms embargo on Syria, describing foreign powers and groups as "irresponsible" for giving military support to the warring parties in the three-year conflict.
"If divisions in the Council continue to prevent such a step, I urge countries to do so individually," Ban said Friday.
The U.N. chief painted a grim picture of a country gripped by severe levels of violence, including the intensified use of barrel bombs by government forces against civilian areas and suicide attacks, reported executions and other acts of terrorism by extremist groups.
As a result, Ban said, the number of people in need has increased by 17 percent — from 9.3 million to 10.8 million.
Ban said the rules that govern the conduct of war "are being flagrantly violated every day."
"Efforts to expand humanitarian assistance to those most in need have been met with continued delays and obstruction," he said.
Currently, all U.N. aid must go through Damascus — a practice which U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos has repeatedly criticized.
New procedures sealing government trucks delivering aid which were introduced in April resulted in fewer people being reached in May, he said, and additional clearance requirements introduced by the government have further undermined access to people in desperate need of aid.
By June 9, only 12 percent of the 4.25 million people the U.N. World Food Program planned to provide with food had been reached, compared to 26 percent at the same time in April, Ban said.
"Tens of thousands of civilians are being arbitrarily denied urgent and lifesaving medical care," Ban said, and which he called "a deliberate tactic of war aimed at denying help and support to those most in need."
The Security Council approved a resolution in February demanding that all sides in the Syrian conflict allow immediate access for aid.
Ban expressed anger and disappointment that the international community has been unable to find a way to end the civil war that has killed about 150,000 people, displaced half the country's population and forced 2.8 million to flee Syria altogether.
Russia, supported by China, has shielded Syria on the Security Council during the conflict by vetoing four resolutions that threatened action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government. Russia is also one of Syria's main arms suppliers.
The United States is supplying rebels with "non-lethal" aid — such as radios, trucks and training. But some U.S. officials say small arms and anti-tank missiles are also being given.
"Syria's neighbors should enforce a firm prohibition on the use of their land borders and airspace for arms flows and smuggling into Syria," he said.
Key council members have been negotiating a new humanitarian resolution that would authorize the delivery of humanitarian aid into Syria through four border crossings without approval from Assad's government. But Western nations, who back Syria's opposition, and the Syrian government's closest ally Russia are reportedly still at odds over its provisions.