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When the fighting stopped in Syria, aid still didn’t get through

This image provided by the Syrian anti-government group Aleppo 24 news, shows damaged trucks carrying aid, in Aleppo, Syria. (Credit: Aleppo 24 news via AP)

The short-lived cease-fire in Syrian ended earlier this week. A break in fighting provided relief to embattled Syrians caught in the middle of the civil war. Hopes were high that the period of safety would allow more humanitarian aid to enter the country. It did not.

Aid trucks waited along the border, unable to enter Syria. By the time some deliveries began, the cease-fire ended and Russian jets struck a joint aid convoy between the U.N. and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. At least 20 people died Monday and aid deliveries once again stopped. Showing fierce determination, humanitarians resumed aid deliveries to Syrians in need on Thursday.

This week’s delays and attacks illustrate the challenges to helping Syrian civilians. Allowing more aid to enter Syria was a major part of the cease-fire agreement, but the government refused to authorize deliveries. Trucks filled with food and essential supplies waited and frustrations grew.

“Can well-fed grown men please stop putting political, bureaucratic and procedural roadblocks for brave humanitarian workers that are willing to go to serve women, children, wounded civilians in besieged and crossfire areas?” said Jan Egeland, the humanitarian adviser to U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, to the media last Thursday.

Little changed in the week that followed. Egeland again pleaded for the Syrians to allow aid in. At least 40 trucks filled with food that will expire on Monday are waiting along the Turkish border. They have been waiting in the customs zone between the two countries for more than 10 days. He appealed directly to President Bashar al-Assad to allow the trucks entry.

“The drivers are sleeping at the border and they have done so now, for now, a week. So please, President Assad, do your bit to enable us get to eastern Aleppo and also the other besieged areas. We also have to get assurances in the east Aleppo case from the armed opposition groups to enter,” said Egeland at a news conference.

Aid convoys were allowed in the rebel-held town of Mouadamiya, a suburb near Damascus. But trucks are waiting for access to the rebel-besieged towns of Foua and Kufreya and government-blockaded Madaya and Zabadani near the Lebanese border.

Aid is also needed in the city of Aleppo, a city Egeland specifically named in his plea to Assad. About half of the waiting trucks are supposed to go to Aleppo, where consistent attacks have cut off essential supplies and people are facing starvation. Over the course of the war, Syrian government forces have used siege tactics to choke off rebel-held cities, a ploy that harms civilians most. Aid makes it to besieged cities at the whim of the government.


About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]