Reasons behind UN’s northern Syria aid decrease
Enab Baladi – Baraa Khattab
The number of UN aid trucks to the regions of northwestern Syria decreased by about 100 trucks last October compared to the previous September, with the possibility of a further decrease in the coming months.
257 UN aid trucks crossed borders last September, while the number of relief trucks did not exceed 155 in October from three border crossings, distributed at the Bab al-Hawa crossing, where 126 trucks entered, a decrease of 86% compared to the same month during 2022, Bab al-Salama crossing with 29 trucks, while the al-Rai crossing did not record the entry of any aid trucks, according to the Syrian Response Coordination Group (SRCG).
What are the reasons?
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which is considered a direct supporter of Syria, provides support through international institutions or through the United Nations through the World Food Programme (WFP).
The donors decided about a year ago to reduce aid by 30%, with the possibility of reducing it again by 30% at the beginning of the new year, which will show the decrease clearly, according to the director of the Violet Organization, Dr. Qutaiba Sayed Issa.
Sayed Issa told Enab Baladi that one of the reasons for the decline is the transfer of aid to new conflict areas in the world, such as Sudan, in addition to emergency aid to countries such as Libya, Morocco, and others. Britain, which is the second largest supporter of the aid provided to Syria through its Department for International Development (DFID), reduced its aid over the past year.
Some countries providing aid believe that Syria has become an old place of conflict, and the supporting countries are also trying to cancel the state of emergency and move towards early recovery, according to Sayed Issa.
As for future expectations regarding aid, Sayed Issa believes that its decline will not appear significantly until the beginning of the second month of 2024, and it will continue as it is at the present time.
The doctor added that while the World Food Programme used to provide the aid basket for about $60, soon it will provide it once every two months and for only $40, and thus it decreased by about $20, which constitutes a crisis for the camp residents who suffer from extreme poverty in Syria.
What are the alternatives?
The Bab al-Hawa border crossing stopped bringing in UN aid on July 11 as a result of the Security Council’s failure to reach an extension of the cross-border mechanism after the Russian veto of the Brazilian-Swiss draft resolution, while the majority of members rejected the Russian draft resolution based on extending the mechanism for only three months.
Then, on August 8, the United Nations announced that it had reached an “understanding” with the Syrian regime’s government, stipulating that the Bab al-Hawa crossing be used to deliver humanitarian aid to northwestern Syria during the following six months.
During this period, the Syria Aid Fund (INSAF) was established, which is an initiative to form a financing fund managed by a British company whose mission is to deliver humanitarian aid to the Syrians living in the north as an alternative solution to the cross-border entry mechanism for aid and to facilitate the flow of funds to international and Syrian NGOs.
A member of the Board of Directors of the INSAF Fund, Dr. Zahid al-Masry, who is the director of the Physicians Across Continents organization, told Enab Baladi that the Fund, whose name was changed to the Aid Fund for Northern Syria (AFNS), is still continuing to operate, but the funding from the supporting parties is not yet clear, and there are currently, many projects funded by the Fund, and they will operate in the coming period for approximately one year.
Regarding the goal of INSAF, al-Masry said, “We are working for the mechanism to be an alternative to providing humanitarian aid to northern Syria in the event that the United Nations is unable to provide aid, but so far, it has not reached a complete alternative.”
The Insaf Fund has begun to develop, and new funds will enter it, in addition to new Syrian projects and partners, according to what the director of the Violet Organization, Dr. Qutaiba Sayed Issa, told Enab Baladi, adding that there is a clear development in the Fund’s work and that it will have a good future in providing aid.
How was the INSAF mechanism formed?
After Russian intransigence in using its veto to prevent the extension of humanitarian aid from the United Nations, alternative efforts have emerged to secure aid for the people.
Under pressure from humanitarian actors concerned with providing humanitarian aid to the region, the Syria Aid Fund (INSAF) was established.
Nine Syrian organizations joined the mechanism, and the Violet charitable organization was elected to represent Syrian organizations on the board of directors, Dr. Sayed Issa told Enab Baladi in a previous report.
Sayed Issa added that four countries worked to establish the INSAF: the United States, Britain, France, and Germany, led by the British company “Adam Smith,” with a steering committee of Syrian organizations and some international organizations.
The idea of the Fund was first proposed at the beginning of 2022, and work began publicly before the vote on extending the UN cross-border aid mechanism on January 10 and an amount estimated at about $70 million was allocated to it by the aforementioned countries, according to Sayed Issa.
Part of the amount will be distributed to some Syrian organizations to implement projects that include distributing cash in displacement camps, in addition to other projects in the field of education and school operations.
The INSAF mechanism is a financing fund similar to the working mechanism of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid (OCHA), and it depends on assessing response needs in various humanitarian sectors and providing intermediary humanitarian organizations with financing. It is capable of implementing projects on the ground, and the advantage of the Fund is to prevent Russia and China from controlling the humanitarian aid file in Syria.
The Fund’s funding specializes in Idlib and the northern countryside of Aleppo only, and there are consultants, representatives of international organizations, and representatives of 10 Syrian organizations with field experience were selected to implement projects, according to Dr. Zahid al-Masry, a member of the Board of Directors of the INSAF Fund.
To ensure the transparency of the initiative, an advisory committee was formed consisting of nine people representing three Syrian organizations, three international humanitarian organizations, and three supporting bodies. A coordinator was appointed for this group, and its job is to manage all the money in the Fund by approving it or not.
According to the SRCG, the percentage of families relying on humanitarian aid has increased by 84%, amid fears that the current percentage will increase in conjunction with the approaching winter and the inability of civilians to secure work compared to the summer.
The local relief group indicated that the percentage of humanitarian needs in various sectors increased by 18.9% compared to last September, compared to a decrease in the humanitarian response by 13.8%.
Northwestern Syria is suffering from a decrease in aid amid the high prices of food and fuel that the region is witnessing, which has increased the poverty rate in the region.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), at least 4.5 million people live in northwestern Syria, including 1.9 million people in IDP camps, while 90% of them depend on international humanitarian aid.
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