Sir, – The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in its response (July 3rd) to my recent opinion article "Ireland can help UN to stop Assad manipulating humanitarian aid" (June 26th)avoids my main point.
I fully support OCHA’s provision of humanitarian assistance directly to Syrians in need through cross-border operations from Turkey and Jordan, which OCHA highlights in its response.
The big problem is with OCHA’s parallel efforts to provide humanitarian aid through its base since 2012 in Damascus – the bulk of its Syria operation.
From that base, OCHA and other UN agencies have little access to those in most acute need. For example, three months after the fall of besieged Eastern Ghouta, OCHA still has been unable to access the 150,000 civilians living there or even to convince the government-controlled Syrian Red Crescent (SARC) to conduct a needs assessment. The result is that the siege effectively continues.
Moreover, the Syrian government’s military and intelligence operations control that aid effort from Damascus. All UN agencies including OCHA must use government-approved partners and supporters to deliver aid. They divert vast quantities of that aid using shell companies and organisations. The consequence is “assistance” that does not reach those in need but ends up worsening their plight by funding further attacks on their hospitals, schools, and homes. – Yours, etc,
Dr ANNIE SPARROW,
Icahn School of Medicine,
Mount Sinai Hospital,