In the wake of the devastating earthquake Syria has been accused of politicising the distribution of aid
A UN ambassador from Syria, Bassam Sabbagh, said that Syria should be in charge of delivering all aid into Syria, even to areas that are not under the control of the Syrian government. This prompted accusations that Syria was playing politics with aid.
Aid delivery into rebel-held northern Syria is being hampered by a number of factors, including the weather, damaged roads, and closed crossing points.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that many roads were impassable due to damage and snow, and that as many as 4 million people were dependent on aid from across the border prior to the disaster. The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) expressed concern that the earthquake had killed thousands of children on both sides of the border between Syria and Turkey.
There were 769 fatalities and 1,448 injuries in government-held territory across the provinces of Aleppo, Latakia, Tartous, and Hama, with the majority of casualties occurring in the cities of Aleppo and Latakia. A total of over 790 people were reportedly killed in areas controlled by the rebels.
More than 70 countries have made requests, and 14 of them are already out in the field, according to Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay. The European Union (EU) reported that it had assembled 27 rescue and medical teams, 1,150 rescue personnel, and 70 search and rescue dogs from across Europe.
It’s likely that the death toll in northern Syria will rise sharply because hundreds of families are still missing and because rescuers haven’t reached many of the towns there.
The United Kingdom’s Minister for Aid, Andrew Mitchell, has admitted that delivering aid to northern Syria presents a challenge, but he has also promised continued cooperation with the White Helmets civilian defence force. On the other hand, he argued that more crossings from Turkey into northern Syria were required.
Damascus only permits one border crossing to be used by aid workers to bring supplies into the area. There has been reluctance to allow aid into the north because the government sees it as a threat to Syrian sovereignty and an obstacle to regaining control of the region.
The former head of UN humanitarian affairs, Mark Lowcock, said that the areas inside Syria most affected by the earthquake appear to be run by the Turkish-controlled opposition rather than the Syrian government. To get aid into those areas, Turkey’s cooperation is essential. Syria’s government isn’t likely to do much to aid the situation.
UN Secretary General António Guterres “assured us that the UN will do all that is possible in helping Syria in this very difficult situation,” Sabbagh told reporters in New York.
Sabbagh was questioned about the possibility of the United Nations delivering aid through other crossing points in Turkey. The government is prepared to assist and coordinate aid deliveries “to all Syrians in all territory of Syria,” he avoided answering directly.
Damascus and authorities in the northwest of the country controlled by anti-regime forces have reported that more than 1,400 people have died as a result of the earthquake.
It would be ironic, if not counterproductive, for us to reach out to a government that has brutalised its people over the course of a dozen years now — gassing them, slaughtering them, and being responsible for much of the suffering that they have endured,” said Ned Price, a spokesman for the US secretary of state.
Instead, we have humanitarian partners on the ground who can help with the recovery from these devastating quakes. They are allies who, in contrast to the brutal Syrian regime, are working to aid rather than oppress the Syrian people.
He continued, “The people of Syria need access for humanitarian purposes. Nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), many of which have been present in various parts of Syria for over a decade, require free passage across the border in order to provide aid to those in need.
According to Qutaiba Idlbi, an expert on Syria at the Atlantic Council in the United States, President Bashar al-insistence Assad’s on “cross-line aid” (aid delivered from government held areas into rebel held areas) isn’t about how aid is routed into affected areas, but rather about who distributes the aid and controls the economy of the humanitarian operations in the north-west. Don’t be fooled: the Assad government can’t pull off a rescue mission in northwest Syria.
Damage to roads and other logistical issues caused by the earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria on Monday have temporarily halted the flow of UN aid from Turkey to north-west Syria, according to a UN spokesperson.
OCHA spokesperson Madevi Sun-Suon noted, “Some roads are broken, some are inaccessible. Some practical difficulties must be overcome. There’s no telling when it will pick back up again.
Concerns have been raised that Turkey, which has suffered greater casualties, will not be able to prioritise aid into areas of Syria where forces it backs have been operating because it will be too preoccupied with saving its own citizens. There may be tensions in the coming days over how aid is distributed, with efforts supported by Russia and the West potentially coming into conflict.