NGO claims Syria aid reaches government areas only

King Abdullah II of Jordan attends the International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria at Bayan Palace on the outskirts of Kuwait City January 30, 2013. (Photo: Reuters - Stephanie McGehee)

Published Wednesday, January 30, 2013

An official of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a grouping of six Gulf Arab states, said a total of $1 billion had been pledged at a Syria donor conference in Kuwait, after promises of $300 million each from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

On Tuesday, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) issued a statement saying that the vast majority of international aid headed to Syria was reaching government-controlled areas only, and urged donors to support cross-border humanitarian operations to achieve equal distribution.

Aid has arrived primarily through UN and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) offices in Damascus, where the government maintains a strong grip on power and the state-sanctioned Syrian Red Crescent is the only distributor of relief supplies.

The MSF says the practice has led to only “a tiny share” of aid reaching opposition-held areas, where the group estimates a third of Syrians live.

“The current aid system is unable to address the worsening living conditions facing people who live inside Syria,” said MSF president Dr. Marie-Pierre Allie.

“The participants in the Kuwait City conference must acknowledge the legitimacy of cross-border humanitarian operations intended for Syria and grant the financial, administrative and logistical support they require.”

Denouncing "unrelenting horrors" in Syria's war, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed Wednesday for an end to the violence and more aid to address a situation he said was catastrophic and worsening by the day.

"How many more people will be killed if the current situation continues?" Ban said, addressing the donors conference in Kuwait aimed at raising money for UN humanitarian work.

"I appeal to all sides and particularly the Syrian government to stop the killing ... in the name of humanity, stop the killing, stop the violence," the UN leader said.

More than 60,000 people have been killed since Syria's 22-month-old conflict began, the United Nations says.

The United Nations warned on Monday that without more money it would not be able to help millions of Syrians and appealed for donations at the aid conference to meet its $1.5 billion target.

Four million Syrians inside the country need food, shelter and other aid and more than 700,000 more are estimated to have fled to countries nearby.

King Abdullah of Jordan told the gathering that Syrians had taken refuge in his country in their hundreds of thousands but Amman's ability to help was at its limits. "We have reached the end of the line, we have exhausted our resources," he said.

UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said that Syrian agriculture was in crisis, hospitals and ambulances had been damaged and even painkillers were unavailable.

Harsh winter weather had made matters worse, and people lack winter clothes, blankets and fuel, with women and children particularly at risk, she said, adding: "We are watching a human tragedy unfold before our eyes."

Sexual violence, detentions

But Ban said much more remained to be done. "The situation in Syria is catastrophic and getting worse every day," he said.

"Every day Syrians face unrelenting horrors," he said, including sexual violence and detentions.

Iran, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said the blame for the humanitarian situation lay with opposition fighters who had come to Syria from abroad.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said the government and its Syrian opponents should "sit and talk and form a transitional government".

"Those who are causing these calamities are mercenaries who have come to Syria from outside the country," he said.

(Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

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