Over 70 aid groups suspend cooperation with UN in Syria for allowing regime to manipulate relief

A man reacts amidst damage from what activists said was an airstrike by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the al-Katerji district in Aleppo. File photo: Reuters

Over than 70 humanitarian groups have suspended information-sharing cooperation with the UN in Syria, accusing the world body of being influenced in its operations, including in the distribution of aid, by the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

In a scathing letter sent to the UN on Thursday, 73 groups announced their withdrawal from the key “Whole of Syria (WoS) information-sharing mechanism”.

“This is a first step in response to the political influence of the Syrian government and the inaction of U.N. agencies and other humanitarian actors based in Damascus,” the letter said.

Besides suspending participation in the programme, in which groups share information to help in the delivery of aid across Syria, the letter’s signatories also called for a transparent investigation into the “political impact that the Syrian government has on humanitarian actors”.

The UN is accused of complacency amid Syrian government interference in the delivery of humanitarian assistance, including blocking aid to besieged rebel-held areas, removing medical aid from convoys, and marginalising humanitarian workers for political reasons. 

According to the aid groups, UN officials in Syria are aware of the situation and remain silent.

“The Syrian government has interfered with the delivery of humanitarian assistance in multiple instances, including the blocking of aid to besieged areas,” the letter said. “This deliberate manipulation by the Syrian government and the complacency of the UN have played hand-in-hand. The people of Syria have suffered ever more as a result.”

In the meantime, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric stressed that the United Nations works in partnership with its 193 member states and continues to deliver aid to millions of Syrians on all sides of the conflict.

“We cannot shoot our way through roadblocks,” Dujarric said. “The U.N.’s humanitarian arm along with its partners is navigating an extremely, extremely challenging environment. The goal is and will remain to deliver as much humanitarian aid as possible.”


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