Aid Groups Say Government, Opposition Both Blocking Aid to Syrian Civilians

PHOTO: UNICEF trucks bring aid to Syria. On Mar. 20, the first U.N. aid trucks crossed into Syria from the Nusaybin crossing on the Turkish border, after the Syrian government opened the crossing to allow aid to reach Qamishli.

After a multi-truck delivery from Turkey proved a once-off, our experts discuss how well Syria's government and opposition have complied with the Security Council's resolution 2139, which called for swift and unimpressed aid.

Last month, the United Nations Security Council approved resolution 2139, demanding "swift and unimpeded" humanitarian aid access in Syria. But Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report last week that the situation "remains extremely challenging," while humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said that "complicated approval processes" continue to block aid to 9.3 million civilians.

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On Mar. 20, the first U.N. aid trucks crossed into Syria from the Nusaybin crossing on the Turkish border, after the Syrian government opened the crossing to allow aid to reach Qamishli. Though the three-day opening raised hopes for future deliveries, it proved an isolated event.

"The government has allowed the U.N. to conduct humanitarian delivery from one border crossing from Nusaybin into Qamishli, but there are concerns whether aid will reach civilians in opposition-held territories," says Lama Fakih, Syria-Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Here, Fakih and Juliette Touma, communications specialist for UNICEF’S Syria effort, discuss how well Syria's warring parties have complied with the Security Council's resolution.

Juliette Touma: I went to Nusaybin crossing and oversaw a convoy of 16 UNICEF trucks that was part of the U.N.-wide humanitarian convoy, organized by the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator, to deliver aid to Qamishli.

Significant as the opening of the border was, it is only a small step towards ensuring unhindered aid access that we very much need. We have a huge task. We reached 25,000 kids out of over 4 million children inside Syria that need aid.

We sent blankets, washing power, towels, shampoo, toothbrushes, washing powder, baby rash cream – the basic stuff that can be lifesaving for people who are displaced. More importantly, we sent family and baby hygiene kits, and water purification tablets, which are very important because the water has been polluted in Syria, and it helps to limit the spread of waterborne diseases.

These supplies will serve 50,000 people (25,000 children) that are internally displaced from the Hasakah Area, and host families who have been incredibly generous and opened up their doors to the displaced. We are hoping to replicate this humanitarian operation to reach as many children as we can.

Lama Fakih: This particular border crossing continues to be held by the Syrian government, and deliveries of assistance were coordinated by the government and distributed by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and other agencies affiliated with the PYD. The government continues to reject U.N. requests to ship aid through border crossings in Turkey and Jordan that are opposition-held.

The border crossings that lead into areas like Aleppo and Idlib, which are under control of the opposition, continue to be closed. This has had a devastating impact on hundreds of thousands of people who live in those areas. Opposition-held border crossings are the only effective and secure way to reach the more than 3 million Syrians that the U.N. reports need assistance in opposition-held areas.

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