Oxfam, NRC call for greater aid access to Syria regime areas after repeated hurdles

Oxfam, NRC call for greater aid access to Syria regime areas after repeated hurdles
The two aid groups have complained of repeated hurdles in accessing regime-held areas.
3 min read
15 July, 2020
Former opposition areas have been devastated by intense bombing [Getty]
Two leading humanitarian agencies have called on the Syrian regime to facilitate aid deliveries to former opposition areas and urged international donors to engage with government ministries, as an economic crisis and coronavirus grips the country.

In a joint report, entitled "Hard Lessons", Oxfam and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) outlined some of the difficulties that agencies face in the delivering of aid to communities in Syria.

Among the obstacles faced by agencies are aid deliveries being blocked or held up to areas controlled or recently recaptured by the Syrian regime.

"Oxfam and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) today called on the government of Syria to facilitate the approval of aid delivery, while also calling on international donors to engage with government ministries to improve access and provide flexible funding for the overall aid response to crisis-affected families in Syria," the two agencies said in a statement.

"While delivering principled humanitarian aid in government-held areas is possible, a reduction in bureaucracy and additional support from international donors are needed to meet the scale and scope of the needs across the country."

The report is based on the experiences of the two agencies working in regime-held areas in Syria over the past ten years.

Specific barriers underlined in the report included bureaucratic delays for starting new projects, difficulties in engaging with government agencies on specific activities, and limits in engaging with local communities.

At least 11.1 million people in Syria are in need humanitarian aid, more than 60 percent in regime-held areas.

A devastating bombing campaign by the regime and Russia during the war has destroyed vital infrastructure in former opposition areas, including schools, homes, and hospitals.

Many areas are still without running water and other basic amenities, while high unemployment and rising inflation has dramatically worsened living standards for most Syrians.

"It is critical that aid delivery is not stifled by unnecessary barriers as millions of families struggle to put food on the table and buy essentials in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the depreciation of the currency and a nosediving economy," the agencies stated.

If aid agencies are prevented from accessing local communities, Oxfam and NRC warned that projects could be reduced or shut down altogether.

Cases of extreme poverty have been reported across Syria, where the weak lira has made imports expensive and rampant corruption worsened the situation for ordinary Syrians.

Aid groups have also been frustrated by Russia and China blocking a UN resolution to open borders to areas outside regime control.

The UN Security Council on Saturday passed a resolution to restart cross-border humanitarian aid to Syria, but only after caving to Russian pressure to close one of two access points into the war-torn country.

Following a week of division and seven ballots, the Council passed a proposal submitted by Germany and Belgium allowing the use of the Bab al-Hawa crossing point for one year.

The measure was approved by 12 of 15 members, with Russia, China and the Dominican Republic abstaining, diplomats said.

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