MSF Criticizes UN Aid Effort for Syria

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Doctors Without Borders (MSF) slammed Wednesday’s UN-led plan to provide humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees on Tuesday claiming there is a major aid imbalance with supplies not being distributed equitably between government- and opposition-controlled areas.

“Areas under government control receive nearly all international aid, while opposition-held zones receive only a tiny share” said MSF in a press release published yesterday.

Stating that the current aid system was failing to meet the needs of the worsening humanitarian crisis within Syria, the President of MSF Dr. Marie-Pierre Allié said “the participants in the Kuwait City conference must acknowledge the legitimacy of cross-border humanitarian operations intended for Syria and grant them the financial, administrative, and logistical support they require.”

The plan was recently published by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and donors met today in Kuwait City to pledge over $1.5 billion dollars in humanitarian aid for civilians affected by the conflict. The UN say the need for humanitarian assistance in affected areas is increasing in order to save the lives of those most affected by the conflict and to avoid a large segment of the Syrian population falling into destitution and seeing a further decline in their health, psychological and nutritional status.

The aid however is due to be implemented by the Government of Syria in collaboration with the UN and as a result only a fraction of international aid reaches opposition-held areas leaving hundreds of thousands of civilians without access to humanitarian aid. As a result the aid is falling far short of reaching the estimated 4 million people that most require it.

The plan states that all humanitarian assistance is, and will continue to be, delivered with full respect to the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic during the implementation of this Response Plan. Furthermore, decisions on strategic or logistical issues would only be done after formal consultations with the regime.

MSF say that the current plans for impartial assistance in Syria are insufficient on each side of the front line and in neighboring countries hosting Syrian refugees.
“Providing humanitarian aid in wartime requires flexibility and responsiveness, both on the part of aid agencies and institutional donors”, MSF said. “Otherwise, aid remains a passive witness to the suffering it is intended to ease.”

The aid is intended not only to provide relief supplies and emergency services but also to address the humanitarian needs of the poor and those who have been displaced by the conflict and support the Syrian government in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of critical infrastructure and vital public services affected by the conflict through rapid repairs.

Even to the most casual of observers it seems a bit counter intuitive to provide the regime financial assistance in rebuilding the infrastructure that they themselves have targeted and destroyed.

The Syrian opposition now controls large parts of the country and continues to extend and consolidate its hold on large population centers such as Aleppo and Homs. While it is difficult to estimate the exact population of Syrians living in these regions it is estimated that at least 30% —approximately seven million people—live in areas beyond government control.
MSF claim that Syrians in opposition-held areas assist civilians with the support of the Syrian diaspora, neighboring countries, and solidarity networks.

The aid however is still insufficient and essential items are in short supply. MSF also claim that unofficial health services are being targeted by regime forces and are struggling to meet the needs of the population.

Given the scale of the humanitarian crisis in Syria it is clear that the UN’s current plan does not begin to address the massive scale of medical needs caused by the nearly 2 year long conflict nor does it address the problems of aid not reaching those who need it the most.

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