PORTLAND, Ore., April 14, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As another round of Geneva peace talks gets underway this week, Mercy Corps and 22 other groups delivering aid in Syria express concern that humanitarian access continues to be approved based on political criteria, rather than need. These organizations released a joint statement today calling on the International Syria Support Group and the Humanitarian Task Force to hold parties to the conflict accountable for providing humanitarian access – as pledged in the February Munich Agreement – and deliver aid that can have a real impact for Syrians struggling to survive.
"The fact that some besieged towns are still not getting consistent approval for UN convoys suggests that humanitarian decisions are tied to political concerns, not need," says Dee Goluba, Syria Director for Mercy Corps. "Who controls your town shouldn't matter when you're hungry or sick."
The United Nations says it has delivered supplies for 400,000 people in 31 communities it designates as "besieged" or "hard-to-reach" since the beginning of the year. The statement calls this progress positive, but notes it is "not nearly enough." The groups recommend action on four points:
- Focus aid not just on periodic delivery of food or blankets, but also on essential services like water, hygiene, health and enabling communities to grow their own food.
- Obtain community input on what is most needed and ensure monitoring of aid convoys.
- Determine which areas receive aid based on impartial assessments of need, not truce negotiations.
- Extend negotiated access and protection to all international and local Syrian humanitarian groups, both registered and those unable to register, not just to UN agencies.
"Many humanitarian workers who are placing themselves at great risk to serve their communities are being cast as criminals," says Goluba. "Our team and partners should not have to work under the threat of prosecution, aerial bombardments, arrests, abduction or detention. All aid workers need the protection of the international community to do this lifesaving work."
The United Nations estimates that 13.5 million people – more than half of Syria's pre-war population – are in need of assistance. Mercy Corps has the largest NGO aid operation in Syria, benefiting about 570,000 people per month.
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SOURCE Mercy Corps