Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Syria Conflict: Issues in Impartial Humanitarian Aid

“The situation in Syria is nothing short of catastrophic” according to Pierre Krähenbühl, Operations Director of the international Red Cross. He visited Syria for four days to gain a more in-depth view of the way in which aid is currently distributed in the war torn country. The Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) – an Arab adaptation of the Red Cross – both have to deal with various factors that complicate the distribution of aid for those in need, such as continuously changing front lines and the overwhelming number of armed parties involved in the conflict.
The Red Cross and SARC have collaborated in the execution of a large number of field activities, including in areas that are under the control of the opposition. There has been much debate surrounding the impartiality of aid and whether or not those in dire need have actually been accounted for in the process. The Red Cross organizes the distribution of aid from Damascus after which the aid is distributed throughout the country. This does not imply that the Red Cross excludes the possibility of activities across the border. These operations across the borders though, only occur in accordance with the agreement of all parties involved in the conflict: the Syrian government, the opposition, and the governments of involved neighboring countries. Nevertheless, the Red Cross’ visit to Al Houleh has proved that NGOs are in fact capable of entering and crossing combat zones to distribute aid.

The main issue that NGOs and other aid-providing organizations face today is that of maintaining their state of impartiality while providing aid to the various parties. It is vital that the Red Cross and SARC have access to the people in all regions that are suffering as a result of the conflict. This includes those areas under control of the opposition.

Since the beginning of the conflicts, the international community has unwaveringly debated the likelihood and effectiveness of distributing aid across Syria. The collective humanitarian aid participation needs to grow in size and intensity. So far, the Red Cross and SARC have been deeply involved in working to achieve this. It would be naive to think that humanitarian operations could remain fully impartial. It is a difficult situation with many complicating factors due to the range of ethnicities, political views and religious beliefs of the population it concerns.

In a nation torn apart by conflict, the distribution of impartial aid by the international community is of critical importance to those who are suffering as a result. The underlying causes of the conflict in Syria are rooted in the economic, political, religious and socio-cultural strata of Syria’s population. The ever-increasing death toll has recently passed 60.000, including military, rebels and civilians. Furthermore, over half a million Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey are now under the care of the United Nations. As the humanitarian situation in Syria regresses, it is absolutely critical that the international community advocates for deeper involvement in impartial humanitarian aid and emergency disaster relief - and that they experience no obstruction in their efforts to do so.

"CIA - The World Fact Book." CIA. Central Intelligence Agency, 04 Mar. 2013. Web. 09 Mar. 2013.

“Red Cross says it cannot cope with Syria emergency.” – Middle East. BBC. 08 Feb. 2013. Web. 09 Mar. 2013

“Syria Blocks Red Cross Aid to Rebel Enclave in Homs”. – Middle East. The New York Times. 02 Mar. Web. 09 Mar.


  1. Although your facts are superb, what do you suggest should happen in the international community as far as aiding countries goes? saying that " it is absolutely critical that the international community advocates for deeper involvement in impartial humanitarian aid and emergency disaster relief - and that they experience no obstruction in their efforts to do so. " is broad. I'd like to hear what you believe will happen in the future!

  2. Impartial humanitarian aid is a horrible idea. This will only allow both sides continue to kill each other. By keep everyone fed and healthy, this will only prolong the conflict and violence and lead to more death. Sounds like Cunningham’s worst nightmare, humanitarian aid to rebels, civilians, jihadists, Bashir, Hezbollah? No, the key to this conflict is having the right people die, you can't keep everyone alive. John Musolino, read my post about Syria and tell me what you think of my resolution.