Friday, December 14, 2018

Facts & Figures on the Syrian Humanitarian Crisis, by Bassim al-Khalili

The situation through the eyes of the UN

Recently, a spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Babar Baloch, said there was a shortage of funds to provide the necessary assistance to the Syrian refugees. 

At present, only 31% of the required funds are recorded in the accounts of UNHCR. The total amount declared in 2018 to help refugees is about $ 1.97 billion. At the same time, the funds for protection and support as well as urgent preparation of IDP’s camps for winter are about $ 270 million this year. In this regard, the Deputy Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Laukok, stated that the mandate of the resolution on humanitarian assistance to the people of Syria needs to be extended during a briefing at the UN Security Council.

In fact, the situation with the humanitarian aid has been really dismal. Among the most acute problems discussed at the UN forums is the situation in the al-Rukban refugee camp, as well as the situation in the province of Idlib. 

Anti-Humanitarian Al-Rukban

Considering the situation in this camp in the south of the country, it is worth noticing that the settlement is located in the security zone around the al-Tanf military base which is controlled by the US-led coalition forces. However, they do not provide food for the people living in al-Rukban. In addition, the United States does not interact with Jordan which closed the border near the camp allegedly because of ISIS militants penetration’ fears.

A Syrian expert and a member of the Century Foundation, Aron Lund, considers that the United States has an international legal obligation to care for civilians. The US troops de facto control this area. “If you occupy the territory you are responsible for the people under your control,” he said.

Meanwhile, the first batch of humanitarian aid was finally delivered to al-Rukban working together. This tangled story on the impediments to the delivery aid with the mutual accusations of the parties is primarily associated with the Pentagon’s unwillingness to fulfill its security obligations in the 55-kilometer zone established around their Al-Tanf base. The US military cited many trivial reasons that impede delivery.

Pressured by the international community, Washington eventually organized the protection and defense of the recent first humanitarian convoy,  and even recognized the positive role of Russia in resolving the issue of delivering aid to al-Rukban refugee camp in Syria. Though State Department spokesman Heather Nauert tried to shift responsibility for the humanitarian disaster in the camp to B. Assad (allegedly it was the Syrian Arab army that was slowing down the delivery) UN officials still thanked the command of the Russian grouping of troops in Syria for escorting the convoy on their way to the camp and back to Damascus. It is reported that the security of the column was provided by the Russian military police and army aviation helicopters.

Non-standard help for long-suffering Idlib

A similar situation with the assistance provision is now observed in the province of Idlib. Repeatedly from the rostrums of authoritative international organizations, it was stated on the need to depoliticize humanitarian work in Syria. Indeed, the population of the country should not suffer from the fact that it lives in the territory controlled by one or another political force. However, some participants in the conflict, such as the United States, took this appeal too literally.

Very often the humanitarian aid is transferred to the representatives of the municipal authorities which are in fact controlled by the armed gangs of the so-called moderate opposition. However, in this respect, the US is actually dealing not with the civil administration, but with the marginal militants.

Thus, Operation Inherent Resolve report says the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) simply did not try to think on the possible risks that the funds may get into the hands of the Islamist militants. Moreover, USAID was repeatedly observed in providing all kind of assistance to the militants.

It has already been emphasized that non-governmental organizations’ employees handed over food packages worth millions of dollars to the people including Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS or the “Organization for the Liberation of the Levant”)  fighters who have no right to receive aid. The total amount of grants issued without complying with the relevant standards is almost $ 700 million. Do Idlib families really want this? Such a humanitarian assistance is unlikely to help the Syrian society to resist the civil war.

The situation with humanitarian aid in the Golan Heights and in Raqqa?
A similar policy is pursued by the Israel Defense Forces. They recently announced that they had closed the humanitarian assistance program that the country provided to Syrian citizens near the border. As reported by Times of Israel, the decision was made after the return of the south of Syria under the control of the government troops. In fact, the Syrian government army simply cleared the Golan Heights from jihadists and the UN peace-keepers returned. So, there's nobody Israel can help right now.  

Everything is unclear on the Kurdish-controlled province of Raqqa and on the territory lying east of Euphrates too. In the town of Raqqa itself, water supply and sewerage systems have not been restored yet, and the area has not been demined. The residents do not have access to any social services. In addition, the uprisings of the indigenous Arabic-speaking population against the tyranny of the Kurds and the US occasionally flare up because the situation in the province is similar to that is going on now in al-Rukban. Repeatedly, there are reports that the US military prevented any humanitarian organizations, including UN missions, from coming to Raqqa.

International organizations involved in providing humanitarian aid complain that they cannot work in Raqqa as they are not able to find a safe place to open offices and deploy help platforms to the public since everything is mined.
Displaced Raqqa residents told researchers from the human rights group visiting the surrounding province that they had faced Islamic State booby traps and lack of food and shelters as they fled, as well as a shortage of clean water, poor sanitation, poverty, unemployment. 

These threats are at a high level among those who are of vulnerable part of society, including orphans, persons with disabilities and elderly. Refugees report shortages and denial of access to food as a reason compelling them to leave Raqqa today.

Now, what impact are these and other efforts having?

So, the West is not interested in improving and stabilizing the humanitarian situation in long-suffering war-torn Syria. The US reluctance to help the Syrians has already led to the death of innocent people. Thanks to the tough stance of the Syrian government and its main ally in the face of the Russian AF, the issue of delivering food, water and medicine was resolved positively.
The situation is the same in the other provinces of Syria. Despite the multimillion-dollar budgets of the many Western non-governmental organizations, a catastrophically small amount of assistance reach those requiring help. Most of it gets into the hands of militants and smugglers. In such a situations locals become slaves. 

In contrast to the United States and Western countries, the B. Assad’s allies including Russia, Iran and a number of other countries are now providing the real humanitarian aid.

Thus, according to the Bulletin of the Center for the Reception, Allocation, and Accommodation of Refugees, the Russian side organize and carry out daily humanitarian actions delivering up to 2 tons of food supplies, the bare necessities, and bottled water at a time in various provinces of Syria. Unfortunately, official representatives of the US-led international coalition do not present such data to the world community.