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Doctors Without Borders: Where's the Urgency Over Humanitarian Aid to Syria?

While world mobilized rapid response to chemical weapons, little political will to help those caught in path of war

Sarah Lazare, staff writer

World powers must mobilize aid in response to the spiraling humanitarian disaster in Syria with the same urgency and political will they mustered to address chemical weapons in the country, international humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières declared in a statement released Tuesday.

“Syrian people are now presented with the absurd situation of chemical weapons inspectors driving freely through areas in desperate need, while ambulances, and food and drug supplies organized by humanitarian organizations, are blocked,” said MSF General Director Christopher Stokes. “Influential countries gathered around a table, thrashed out an agreement on chemical weapons, and put it into practice. They have shown that such mobilization can be achieved. So where are the efforts to repeat this success with the burning issue of access for humanitarian aid?”

The international humanitarian organization paints a grim picture of Syria's many areas under siege that are cut off from vital aid because of intense fighting as well as obstruction by the Syrian government and some opposition groups, leaving the displaced, wounded, malnourished, and sick to fend for themselves.

In the Damascus suburbs of East and West Ghouta, where chemical weapons inspectors are allowed to visit, life-saving medical and food assistance cannot get through.

In the Aleppo region, fighting has violently displaced 18,000 families, and MSF officials report they are not able to access and treat many of the wounded.

As inspectors with the United Nations and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons—which won the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize —enter the country, the UN is decreasing its humanitarian staff, MSF reports.

Since fighting erupted in 2011, over 2 million Syrians have fled the country, and an estimated 4 million are internally displaced, the Guardian reports. According to a recent report by Save the Children, the war is cutting off food access for people across the country, leaving widespread problems of malnutrition and starvation.

Critics charge that inaction over aid exposes the emptiness of humanitarian rhetoric, espoused by the U.S. and its close allies, to justify military mobilization and potential strikes on the war-torn country.

"The humanitarian situation could be addressed if international community chose to put in adequate resources," Stephen Zunes, leading Middle East scholar, told Common Dreams. "No side feels they have enough to gain politically by doing so."


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