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Where is Syria aid money really going?

For all the million-dollar pledges, the chance of aid reaching some of the most in need is very slim.
Last modified: 31 Jan 2013 19:06

So the global community has responded to the call for help from Syria's desperate people with pledges of huge sums of aid money. Perhaps million-dollar donations will salve the conscience of countries reluctant to get involved in sorting out this spiralling conflict.

It shouldn't.

The chance of aid reaching some of the most in need is very slim.

The UN channels all its aid through Damascus and the main distributor of this aid is the Syrian Arab Red Crescent which operates predominately in government-controlled areas.

The activist network, Avaaz, calls this supply line an "insane and immoral handout" to the Syrian regime.

Aid workers inside Damascus tell us that even aid earmarked for disputed areas outside of the city is often commandeered by government soldiers never to be seen again.

The SARC's own website lists the areas it has distributed aid to in Aleppo. All are held by the regime.

We've heard occasional stories of Red Crescent heroics.

Desperate plea

Jamal, a former SARC employee who defected with the rebels and now operates on his own delivering aid from Turkey into Idlib province, contacted his old colleagues with a desperate plea for aid last summer.

He says some of those still working in the SARC office in Idlib loaded up their truck and headed towards the frontline, telling soldiers manning a government checkpoint that they had a delivery for the government base.

Out of sight of the soldiers, they took a detour into rebel territory and got the supplies to those living on the other side of the battlelines.

The UN is looking into the possibility of taking aid into the country through other borders but says the Syrian government would still need to be consulted.

To those living in many rebel held areas the news from Kuwait will make little difference to their daily struggle to stay alive.

It won't help Ahmad who fled with his daughters from the bombing in the city of Maarat al-Numan with just the possessions they could carry.

They now live in a cave up in the snow-covered mountains of Jabal Zawiya. They've nothing to keep them warm but the sticks they collect to build a fire. They get thinner every day.

The $1.5bn is unlikely to reach doctors like Hani Marouf who is trying to treat thousands of patients in Idlib with scarcely any medicine or medical equipment.

We watched his frantic efforts to revive a 20-day-old baby with adult-size instruments. The day after baby Moutassim Bilah died on the doctor's living room floor a grandmother was hit in an air strike two streets away.

Cemeteries growing

The cemeteries are growing but the aid stocks are not.

Marouf Mohammad's mother has brought him to see the doctor, another baby struggling to breath.

He has a throat infection, a treatable complaint if treated quickly but the doctor ran out of paediatric medicine last summer.

Just a dribble of food, medicine and fuel makes it to these communities whose numbers have more than tripled as more and more people arrive looking for shelter from the bombardment that's now reached their own town or village.

The one change that could really turn things around for these people is to stop the bombings and the air strikes. Then they could get to proper hospitals.

The NGOs would deliver supplies. Fuel and food would start to flow back into the country.

It's not enough to just stock up the warehouses. Not if you want a clear conscience.