The U.S has spent a total of $6 billion in Syria as of 2016. The need for this assistance is extensive. USAID estimated that there are 13.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria. However, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria diverts foreign aid from those who need it. He uses it for political goals.

Every day, Russian aircraft drop tons of food in the government-controlled neighborhood of Deir Ezzor. This has saved the lives of countless Syrians in the city. However, in towns controlled by the opposition, countless Syrians starve. Through the use of systematic regulations, President Assad diverts foreign aid from those in need. He then uses foreign aid as a political tool to increase his authority. Syrian expert Joshua Landis said that the Syrian government needs to manipulate foreign aid because “food is loyalty.”

The U.N. admits that it can only work with a small number of partners approved by Assad. Assad’s wife and close friend run two of these partnerships. Other humanitarian relief contracts are awarded to individuals under sanction and members of the Syrian regime known for their brutality and oppression. This is because the Syrian relief effort is the most challenging and complex operation the U.N. has ever seen. This gives Assad more bargaining power. He diverts foreign aid only to areas he controls. He only allows the U.N. into the country without interference if they play by his rules.

Moreover, a Russian airliner company, Abakan Air, carries out the aid transportation. Two Russian nationals, Nikolai Ustimenko and his son Patel, own the company. Both have previously been barred from doing business with the U.N. on account of bribery. It is unclear to what extent they play in Assad’s distribution of foreign aid.

It wasn’t always this way. Initially, the U.N. and Syrian Red Cross delivered aid impartially to the Syrian people. However, as the world turned its attention elsewhere, the Syrian government began blocking aid deliveries to rebel-controlled towns.

Advocates of the foreign aid program point to the amount of good aid have done in the region. Even through the aid only affects certain areas, civilians in need are still being fed. They say it would be unfair to punish those civilians in desperate need by withdrawing aid.

The USAID and UNICEF have done well to give aid. However, it is not good enough. The fact that Assad diverts foreign aid must be addressed. People are starving in Syria and aid needs to be distributed equally.

Bruce Truax

Photo: Google

Half of Syria Will Be in Need of Aid, Says UN
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, nearly half of the population of Syria will be in need of foreign aid by the end of 2013. With nearly 8,000 people per day leaving the country with no sign of impending political compromise or end to the fighting, the UN estimates that there will be 3.5 million refugees by the end of the year, and 10 million in dire need of aid – with half of those being children.

The commissioner claimed that although he has been involved with long civil wars in the past, including refugee situations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the current crisis in Syria is the most serious he has ever seen, calling it “the worst humanitarian disaster since the end of the cold war.”

The situation is being compounded by already-low levels of foreign aid to organizations working to bring relief to refugees in the area. Unicef reported being underfunded by 70%, and the commissioner stated that foreign powers are unable to provide aid due to current economic conditions.

Besides the Syrian refugees who have fled the country for bordering nations, nearly three million Syrians remain displaced within the country’s borders and thus have very few opportunities for providing basic necessities, like consistent food and clean water – not to mention access to electricity.

The commissioner also noted the geopolitical implications of the Syrian civil war, saying that the stress placed on neighboring nations Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq are very serious, saying “it’s the most dangerous of all crises.”

Christina Kindlon

Source: Guardian