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Boy Survives Airstrike to Become Face of Aleppo; U.N. Demands 48- Hour Ceasefire in Aleppo; U.N. Acknowledges Role in Haiti Cholera Outbreak; South Sudanese Reporter Killed in Compound Raid; Growing Up in the Eye of Syria's Storm. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired August 18, 2016 - 14:00:00   ET


[14:00:00] CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, a 5-year-old boy narrowly survives an air strike in Aleppo. Now his face

beamed around the world today has become a symbol of his city's suffering.

We ask the U.N.'s deputy secretary-general, is there any hope for Syria's children?

And in South Sudan, pressure on the U.N. after peacekeepers fail to stop a brutal attack.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any wrong move could have ended any of our lives. There was no method behind the madness.


WARD: One aid worker relives the horror.

Good evening, everyone. And welcome to the program.

I'm Clarissa Ward in London.

Once in a while an image comes along that sums up a story better than any interview, essay or speech. For the war in Syria, for Aleppo, it is Omran,

a boy as old as the war itself.

Nima Elbagir has his story.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A little boy carried out of rubble into a waiting ambulance. A moment amidst the mayhem. A moment

like so many others here in Aleppo.

5-year-old Omran Daqneesh, unable to even cry. Still unsure if his family survived.

The activist who took this video of Omran described to us out of the sky, how it took nearly an hour to pull Omran out from beneath the chaos, all

the while watching for the return of the plane that carried out the strike.

MUSTAFA AL SARPUQ, MEDIA ACTIVIST (through translator): When we go to a place that has been bombed, raging planes circle around and bomb it again

to kill rescue workers that are helping civilians. They kill these people who are trying to rescue people.

ELBAGIR (on-camera): This is, of course, daily reality for you in Aleppo.

AL SARPUQ: We live these moments every day in Aleppo. Right now, regime planes are shelling nearby as I speak. The whole world is silent. These

crimes in Aleppo against women and children. There are thousands of children like Omran who are being bombed daily, killed daily. Everyone

just accepts their families are being bombed, their homes are being destroyed.

ELBAGIR: These images have now reverberated around the world. But, well, anything really change.

U.N. Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura is hoping it will. He's asking for a 48-hour humanitarian ceasefire.

STAFFAN DE MISTURA, U.N. SPECIAL ENVOY FOR SYRIA: And I again insist on behalf of the secretary-general of the U.N. --

ELBAGIR: This, though, is not the first time an image of a suffering child gave the world pause.

Toddler Aylan Kurdi's lifeless body carried out of the treacherous Mediterranean Sea.

Forty years ago, Kim Phuc's naked agony became emblematic of the ravaging of Vietnam. The world paused, shed tears, but ultimately moved on.

Another little boy joins Omran in the ambulance as one by one the injured and dead are retrieved.

They will not be the last children to be pulled out of the wreckage of their homes tonight or in any of the many nights to come here in Aleppo.

Nima Elbagir, CNN, London.


WARD: Hope is far from reach for Omran. Faced with escalating fighting, the U.N. has been forced to halt nearly all aid deliveries inside Syria.


DE MISTURA: In Syria, what we are hearing and seeing is only fighting, offensives, counteroffensives, rockets, barrel bombs, mortars, hell fire

cannons, napalm, chlorine, snipers, air strikes, suicide bombers.

Not one single convoy in one month has reached any of the humanitarian besieged areas. Not one single convoy. And why? Because one thing,



WARD: Staffan De Mistura abruptly cut short a meeting of the U.N. Humanitarian Task Force in protest of the violence.

Russia, after previously allowing three hour cease-fires, now says it supports that longer 48 hour pause that aid workers say is the minimum

needed for them to get in and do their work.

[14:05:00] There is little justice for Omran or the 4,500 children killed in Aleppo since the war began. Or the more than 400,000 Syrians who have

killed across the country.

Joining me now from the U.N. headquarters in New York is the Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson.

Thank you so much for being on the program with us.

You saw the face. You saw the look of bewilderment on young Omran's face.

Has the United Nations failed him and the people of Syria?

JAN ELIASSON, DEPUTY SECRETARY GENERAL: I think the whole world has failed the Syrian people. I think this is an illustration of the huge tragedy

that Syria and the Syrian people are going through.

We talk about often as this being a nightmare. This is worse than a nightmare because you wake up from a nightmare. But in Syria, they wake up

to constant nightmare.

And I would hope that this image of Omran and the image -- like the image with Aylan Kurdi, and as I recall the image of the burning girl from the

parliament, the Vietnam War, would have an effect on people and on governments, and all those who can influence the situation on the ground.

So let us now hope that this cessation of hostilities, of the humanitarian pause for 48 hours will be followed through and accepted by all parties so

that we can reach some of the people who are in desperate need next week.

WARD: There is a really deep sense of frustration on the ground in Syria from people who feel strongly that the international community and the

United Nations have essentially abandoned them.

Do you believe that the U.N. has done enough to stop the war in Syria?

ELIASSON: You can't say that we have done enough when you see the image you saw today. But, unfortunately, this conflict for a long time was

leading to a blocked situation in the Security Council.

We also had regional powers, where different interests fighting it out in Syria, making it to proxy war. And then we had a horrible division among

different groups inside Syria and, of course, terrorist action which makes the situation even worse.

But now we have a hope because we have a Security Council resolution adopted in December. We have a group that is working with Staffan De

Mistura in Geneva and with the support of both Security Council and the concerned member states.

So what we need to do now is to move to, first of all, this 48 hour pause, which I hope will be followed by all others now very soon. And then move

further to that becoming a working cessation of hostilities.

And then by that, opening up humanitarian access so that we finally can reach not only Aleppo, but a lot of other places which are besieged and in


And then lastly, all this should lead to a serious start of the political talks towards transition to peace in Syria. That is the game plan that the

secretary general and (INAUDIBLE) and all of us at the U.N. are working for.

And we hope now that this wake-up call that comes from Omran and from the children of Aleppo will help us move in that direction.

WARD: But with all due respect, sir, the U.N. has been saying this over and over again for years. And it appears to have had very little impact on

the ground.

Do you have any real cause for optimism that this time it will be different, that this time the U.N. can avert another massacre?

ELIASSON: We put our best negotiators on this: Kofi Annan, Lakdhar Brahimi, Staffan de Mistura. And for a long time, we were extremely

frustrated. Also, the secretary-general, myself and others. But now we have finally a Security Council resolution, which is binding.

And we have a group of countries also representative of the region that should push this process forward. We had 47 days of relative calm where we

could reach hundreds of thousands of people, couple of months ago. This now risks breaking up. But I think we have -- we should work hard and

expect all the actors to move now towards the cessation of hostilities, the openness to access to reach all areas.

And then underlying them, what's most important is to get the political talks going. And we are working very hard for that and we hope very much

that we now, tomorrow is the World Humanitarian Day. Why shouldn't we take this as a day to really move in the interest of humanity; to end this

horrific nightmare?

[14:10:15] And then use the general assembly with all the heads of state of government coming here in the end of September, and then make sure that we

end this war.

Nothing is more important to the secretary and myself from the site of the secretariat. But the United Nations becomes as strong as the member states

want us to be. And when the country becomes the object of power struggles between big powers, between neighboring countries, and with horrific

divisions among the actors on the ground, it's extremely difficult.

But this is one of the most frustrating conflicts of the world. I myself have a background as a humanitarian. I follow this work. We have lost so

many people on the ground, trying to reach the people. And our frustration is as big as everybody. So I hope really that this image, which now goes

viral around the world will really get to people's hearts and brains at the same time. Because it's bad enough.

We have regional dangers that are extremely serious. We have the migration crisis and neighboring countries, and in Europe and elsewhere, and we have

the religious and ethnic factors, strengthening conflicts all around the world. So this is like an infected wound in world politics. We got to end

this war.

WARD: An infected wound, exactly.

I just want to ask you one other quick question on another topic, which is on the cholera outbreak in Haiti. The U.N. now appearing to pivot towards

admitting that it may have been the cause of that outbreak.

What is your response to that?

ELIASSON: Well, we have claimed for a long time that we must combine a rather strict legal position on immunity for the United Nations because we

have so many consequences of peacekeeping actions that could be affected. But we can't combine that in my view and the secretary-general's view with

the element of compassion. And we need now to look into how we in different ways can help the Haitian people, those who are still affected,

but also try to reach those who are affected in the past.

The secretary has instructed us to work in that direction. We will be in contact with the Haitian government and we will above all expect member

states to accept this moral responsibility and take action for the people of Haiti.

WARD: Thank you so much for being on the program.

Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson.

When we come back, a survivor of the rage and fury in South Sudan's conflict. An aid worker who made it through a vicious attack on his

compound just a mile away from a U.N. outpost. That's next.


WARD: Welcome back.

South Sudan was supposed to be a country full of hope and prosperity. But barely five years after it was founded, it is being ravaged by a vicious

civil war. 2 million people have fled their homes. 300 have been killed in the last month alone.

[14:15:11] U.N. peacekeepers, 12,000 of them, are stationed in the country to help look after and protect the civilians. But now they're facing

serious accusations of failing to come to the rescue of people in this compound that housed many aid workers.

It was stormed last month by men alleged to be South Sudanese soldiers. They killed a journalist and carried out repeated rapes and mock


Well, let's bring in CNN's David McKenzie, who is in Johannesburg with more.

David, first of all, just explain to us why has this civil war in Sudan escalated to this level.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Clarissa, as you say, the world's newest country has been racked by violence from its very


Just five years in South Sudan has had this ongoing fighting between rival groups, really backing the President Salva Kiir and the recent Vice

President Reik Machar.

Now the fighting really escalated in late 2013. It has a very strong ethnic dimension with the two groupings that support these men fighting

each other periodically, really escalating again in July, last month where you saw heavy artillery fights going on right in the capital of Juba

between the two groups of soldiers.

You saw targeted rapes, gang rapes, killings and mass actions against areas right next to those U.N. compounds.

The U.N. has managed to protect civilians in Juba, in South Sudan. Many saying that they failed, failed miserably in the case of this attack on

that hotel.


WARD: And so where was the U.N.? What are they saying? How did they explain the failure to respond to this?

MCKENZIE: Initially to CNN, they say that they were unable to move out of their compounds because of that fierce fighting. But this is a mandate,

the very first few lines of this mandate, Clarissa, say they're managing to protect civilians against violence, particularly woman and girls who are

the most vulnerable in these kinds of fights.

And certainly they were reached out to by the people in that hotel, by the foreign aid workers, by the Sudanese in that hotel, and no one came.

Several hours went by before anyone was able to rescue them and it was other South Sudanese soldiers.

They are in a very difficult position, having to try and keep the peace between these rival factions of the military and protect their own U.N.

workers. And to be fair, thousands of South Sudanese were able to flee into their compounds and they let them in and protected them, but there

were women, scores of them, outside of even the hotel attack that were raped even within view of those U.N. compounds in that fighting.

So an independent investigation has been called for by the U.N. Secretary- General. Very tough question needs to be answered by that UNMISS group, that U.N. force that is based in South Sudan.


WARD: Indeed. David McKenzie, thank you.

Well, as David just said, the U.N. says it is investigating why peacekeepers stationed less than a mile away failed to respond properly to

the attack.

Let's speak to a man who witnessed it, Filipino aid worker Gian Libot hid under a bed as armed men went on a four-hour rampage. He described the

seemingly endless stream of horrors when I spoke to him just earlier.


WARD: Gian Libot, thank you so much for being on the program.

Describe what happened to you that day, and what you saw take place at this compound.

GIAN LIBOT, AID WORKER: We were inundated by armed men in a private compound July 11th. The attack started at 4:00. It was chaos. It was

confusion. I personally was physically abused.

A number of people inside that compound also suffered physically and mentally as well.

We also lost a local colleague of ours during the ordeal.

WARD: Tell me how many soldiers were there? What did they say when they came into the compound?

LIBOT: So I think the estimates are around 80 to 100 that came into the compound. I personally interacted with I think roughly around 30 or more.

I could visually see.

A number of them were, you know, intensely trying to loot stuff, trying to get items, all the while also trying to shout, like, you know, "We're going

to kill you, if you don't do this." So they were sort of intimidating a number of us and also recklessly shooting as well.

[14:20:10] There was so much stray fire going around. I got hit by a couple of stray bullets at the back as well.

We're seeing images of some of the chaos of the aftermath.

What were you thinking in those moments? How were you trying to protect yourself?

LIBOT: I hid under the bed for two hours so I could just see the feet of different soldiers coming in and out of the room. And I, you know, was

hiding and, yes, they were turning the place apart. They were turning everything upside down. They were trying to get whatever they could get.

And it was hard to deal with. It was massively chaotic. And the sounds of destruction, things being broken, glass are shattering. It was just hard

to describe how to rationalize what was happening

WARD: You believed that the U.N. would come to help you, did you not? What was your reaction when you understood that there was no help coming?

LIBOT: I had been working in South Sudan for a year and four months or so, and I interacted with the mission, you know, intimately in many ways and


And I understand the mandate so there is an expectation on your part as an aid worker that they will be there to protect you. At the time of the

ordeal, I definitely was expecting some kind of assistance or rescue. At the end of the ordeal, it was, you know, a little disappointing to hear

that nothing really came.

WARD: We heard that you actually witnessed the killing of a journalist who was living in that compound.

Tell us what you saw.

LIBOT: We were lined up and we were being lectured by one of the soldiers about their hatred for foreigners, their hatred for the U.N., their hatred

for America. And they were -- we were being told about we were going to be made as an example of sorts. That they were going to kill us.

While this was happening, I then saw John Gatluak get escorted by a very tall soldier pointing a gun at him. And they were trying to get him

outside of the apartment. As soon as he got outside, he -- his arms were raised up. He was not fighting back. He clearly was in a very, you know,

calm state despite the violence that was going on. He wasn't saying anything.

And all the while, a few other soldiers behind us, the man who was pointing the gun at John were displaying signs of aggression, they were shouting,

they were chanting some words I couldn't understand. But one of the words that did stand out was the shout of the word "Nuer," during the split

second that it happened.

And I guess that became a trigger, and right then and there the man who just initially just pointed the gun at John shot him. Two shots to the

head and four more when his body was already, you know, lying on the ground lifeless.

WARD: Horrifying. Absolutely horrifying.

Were you concerned at any time that you weren't going to make it out of that compound?

LIBOT: Oh, yes, definitely. There were many occasions, you know, during the whole four hours where it felt like it was the end. This was a force

that was hostile. Any wrong move could have ended any of our lives. There was no method behind the madness.

It was, I've even -- it's, you know, we're lucky to even be able to talk right now without -- and yes, there were many points in the ordeal where I

felt like it was probably the end for me and for my other colleagues who were there.

WARD: Gian Libot, thank you so much for having the courage to speak to us.

LIBOT: Thank you, Clarissa.


WARD: And after a break, we go back to Syria to imagine a world captivated by a single image as well as the many others that show the horror and the

hope surrounding Syria's children.


WARD: And, finally tonight, we imagine a world of vacant stares and shell- shocked children. The quiet and tragic demeanor of 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh struck a nerve with people around the world.

Sadly, it's hardly unique. There are countless images of young boys and girls, their faces frozen in horror, as the dust settles all around them.

But there are also images of hope pulled from the rubble.

This video shows the Syrian defence -- civil defence known as the White Helmets pulling a baby from the wreckage alive. Today, the White Helmets

were nominated for the Nobel Peace prize by more than 130 international organizations. Their work has shown us that humanity still perseveres even

in the darkest of times.

And many more images show why we can't give up on these children. Their resilience continues even in the most dire of circumstances. In cities

wrapped by -- warped by war, they play on the fractured landscape when they can, where chances to learn are few and far between, they go to school

underground if that's what it takes, living their lives in the eye of Syria's storm.

That's it for our program tonight.

And, remember, you can listen to our podcast, see us online at And follow me on Facebook and on Twitter at Clarissa Ward.

Thank you for watching and good-bye from London.