This week we received news that an aid convoy had finally been granted access to the Syrian town of Madaya. The admittance comes as only 10% of the UN’s requests to deliver aid to besieged communities since the conflict began, were granted.
Shortages of food, water, medicine, electricity and fuel have led to malnutrition and deaths among vulnerable groups. The 44-strong convoy of lorries contained enough supplies for the 40,000 people currently besieged by a government blockade.
All parties in the Syrian conflict use siege warfare in an attempt to force opponents to surrender, so starvation in besieged communities will continue to be a problem. The images of aid delivery we’ve seen this week need to become common place; there needs to be continued access to these areas.
However, whilst this is good news in itself, it highlights the distinct lack of action from the British government. The government had no direct involvement in the aid convoys; the operation was organized by the UN, ICRC, Syrian Red Crescent and the World Food Programme.
Whilst NGOs are working hard to save lies and repair the damage inflicted by medieval sieging tactics, the British government have taken a back seat.
Last week ex-Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown sent letters to the Prime Minster and Home Secretary, urging them to parachute aid supplies into besieged towns. Needless to say, the government rejected the idea, offering a woeful excuse:
“The air environment is totally different in central and southern Syria. There are surface-to-air missiles – and it’s right in the heartland of the regime.”
Evidently British planes can drop bombs on Syria, but not aid.
For a Prime Minister who has vehemently defended his commitment to spend 0.7% of national income on foreign aid, his response to the starvation of tens of thousands of innocent people through besieging, has been miserably inadequate.
After all, the RAF managed to deliver emergency supplies to Mount Sinjar in the equally hostile northern Iraq when it was besieged by ISIL in 2014, and the air force are already flying anti-ISIS missions in areas which are suffering from starvation (showing that these areas are accessible via the sky).
If the government is not going to pull its weight by supplying aid, it should be making up for this by welcoming more refugees to the UK – as the Liberal Democrats and Save the Children have campaigned for.
Of course, supplying aid is not a substitute for a long term political solution, but it at least goes some way to counteracting the callus, brutal and inhumane results of the Syrian conflict.
PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES