Red Cross defends depoliticization of aid to Syria
Published 08/02/2023 19:03 | Edited 02/08/2023 19:10
The Red Cross that operates in the Middle East and the United Nations (UN) have been demonstrating in defense of equity in international solidarity and cooperation with war-stricken Syria. International aid has been reaching Turkey with difficulty, but it suffers insurmountable obstacles to reach the humanitarian tragedy in the neighboring country, which already comes from the devastation of the Islamic State.
As time runs out to save lives, international organizations are beginning to discuss how to help survivors in these countries, especially in Syria, to survive the cold, urban devastation, hunger, thirst and the health crisis. Under the excuse of distrusting the official government of Syria, commanded by Bashar el-Assad, international organizations resist sending aid to Damascus.
Fabrizio Carboni, regional director for the Near and Middle East of the International Committee of the Red Cross, has told the press of the political environment that hampers cooperation between the parties on humanitarian issues and separates it from political and military differences.
“Put politics aside and let’s do our humanitarian work,” said El-Mostafa Benlamlih, UN Resident Coordinator in Syria, warning: “We cannot wait and negotiate. The moment we negotiate, it’s done, it’s over.”
As the war continues, roads are blocked by both armed forces involved, which prevents one area from allowing the other to receive aid. Meanwhile, people who already lived in a precarious way are affected by the earthquake, cold, hunger and thirst, in addition to not being able to count on adequate hospital care.
“But now is a unique opportunity to redefine the humanitarian approach and depoliticize it,” said Carboni. “It needs to happen really fast because every day, every hour that we let this go, people are paying the price.”
He described Monday’s earthquakes as “just one disaster in a long series of disasters” hitting Syrians.
“A few weeks ago we were working on the cholera epidemic in the Aleppo area, which is one of the hardest-hit areas,” said Carboni. “And before that, there was the financial crisis, covid, fighting and bombing.
“So this is an extremely vulnerable population, even without this earthquake.” In Syria, where a conflict that started in 2011 continues, despair grows among those still waiting for help.
Damage to roads and other infrastructure in southern Turkey prevented aid from reaching northern Syria through the only crossing, known as the Bab al-Hawa.
Turkey is working to open two more border gates with Syria to allow the flow of humanitarian aid to its quake-hit neighbor, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.
The Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets, which is leading efforts to rescue people buried under rubble in rebel-held areas of earthquake-hit Syria, says it has received no help so far.
“No help came [no norte da Síria] down any of the corridors,” said Abdul Razzak Kentar, program manager for the Syrian Civil Defense. “Only an Egyptian technical team of 20 people, including doctors, without equipment, entered the Bab al-Hawa pass” from Turkey, Kentar said.
Syria itself is under Western sanctions linked to the war. Bashar al-Assad’s government and its allies in Russia have seized the moment to renew their pressure for aid to the north to be routed through Damascus.
Countries that oppose al-Assad do not trust the Syrian authorities to effectively deliver aid to opposition areas and fear that it will be diverted to benefit people and institutions linked to the government.
At a press conference on Tuesday in Damascus, Syrian Arab Red Crescent head Khaled Hboubati said his group is “ready to deliver humanitarian aid to all regions of Syria, including areas beyond government control”.
He called on the European Union to lift its sanctions on Syria over the emergency.
Relief efforts have been hampered by ongoing warfare and the isolation of the opposition-held region along the border, besieged by Russian-backed government forces.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called on Russia to put pressure on Syria to allow humanitarian aid to enter the country for earthquake victims quickly and without additional obstacles.
“All international actors, including Russia, must exert pressure on the Syrian regime to ensure that humanitarian aid for the victims arrives,” Baerbock said during a press conference in Berlin with Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan.
“It is important that the weapons are withdrawn and that all efforts in the region focus on humanitarian aid and the recovery and protection of victims,” said Baerbock, adding that every minute counts.
Parts of Syria’s earthquake-affected areas are controlled by rebel groups, but the Syrian government has traditionally insisted that all humanitarian aid be routed through it.
Germany will provide an additional €1 million to aid group Malteser International and is working to make more financial aid available to other humanitarian partners helping earthquake victims in Syria, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said.
Adelheid Marschang, WHO’s senior emergency officer, said earlier that Syria needed tremendous help after the earthquake, which was “a crisis on top of several crises”.
UN aid stopped
As if the war were not enough, the flow of critical United Nations aid from Turkey to northwest Syria has been temporarily disrupted due to road damage and other logistical issues related to the deadly earthquakes that hit the two countries on Monday, a senior official said. UN spokesperson.
“Some roads are broken, some are inaccessible. There are logistical issues that need to be resolved,” Madevi Sun-Suon, spokeswoman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance, told Reuters news agency.
“We don’t have a clear picture of when this will resume,” she said.
UNESCO, the UN cultural agency, said it was ready to provide assistance after two sites listed on its world heritage list in Syria and Turkey sustained damage in the devastating earthquake.
In addition to the damage to the old city of Aleppo in Syria and the fortress in the city of Diyarbakır in southeastern Turkey, UNESCO said at least three other world heritage sites could be affected, including the famous archaeological site Nemrut Dag.