The UN and humanitarian aid in Syria

 

Sir, – The article “Ireland can help UN to stop Assad manipulating humanitarian aid” (Annie Sparrow, Opinion & Analysis, June 26th) correctly recognises the challenging environment in which humanitarian organizations operate in Syria. However, the article misrepresents the work of the United Nations and its Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which has played a key role in supporting the delivery of life-saving aid to millions of people every month in Syria, including through cross-border channels.

Humanitarian aid in Syria is prioritised according to independently assessed needs, and provided from across Syria’s borders as well as from inside the country. The United Nations has established a regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis, at the level of assistant secretary general and based in Amman, Jordan, specifically to ensure that people in greatest need are reached with assistance and protection, irrespective of whether they find themselves in areas controlled by the government – where close to half of those in need are currently located – or elsewhere.

OCHA supports this regional leadership approach from its offices in Jordan, Turkey and Iraq, as well as inside Syria. OCHA was among the first UN actors to establish a presence in southern Turkey to support the provision of aid in areas of northern Syria not reachable through other means.

OCHA also actively and publicly speaks out against attacks against and interference with healthcare, in close coordination with the World Health Organisation, including through regular briefings before the UN Security Council.

As in other operations, humanitarian organisations in Syria depend heavily on local partners and communities, as well as government institutions, to reach those most in need across the country, and to ensure that aid goes where it is intended. It is Syrians who are at the forefront of the aid operation, and many have lost their lives in this endeavour.

Today, in the eighth year of this terrible conflict, violence is raging in southern Syria, causing tens of thousands to flee. Humanitarian aid will not solve the crisis in Syria. But it is – in the face of enormous challenges – reducing the suffering of millions of children, women and men. Continued international support for these efforts remains critical. – Yours, etc,

PANOS MOUMTZIS,

Regional Humanitarian

Coordinator

for the Syria Crisis,

United Nations Office

for the Coordination

of Humanitarian Affairs,

Amman, Jordan.