Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: When Governments Obstruct Aid | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Snow covers the ground as a family stands outside their make shift home, after their house was allegedly detroyed in fighting between the rebels and pro-governemt forces, in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on December 13, 2013 (AFP PHOTO/MOHAMMED AL-KHATIEB)

We cannot protect unarmed Syrian civilians from the crimes of Assad’s forces, who are shelling neighborhoods using jets and heavy artillery. We cannot change the military balance on the ground or bring about foreign intervention. The Syrian people’s cause, and their fate, is entirely in their own hands now.

However, we cannot say the same regarding the millions of Syrians who are facing the threat of death from hunger or cold weather. What is preventing us from providing them with food and blankets?

We are confronting a horrible tragedy at a time when we are neither short of money nor the ability to help. We are also aware of what is happening to people in Syria and what Syrian refugees are currently suffering from. We see children dying every day due to food shortages, and now suffering due to the conditions brought on by the Alexa snowstorm, which has covered vast swathes of the Middle East under a blanket of unforgiving snow.

So what is required to stop this humanitarian catastrophe? One million blankets? Ten million? More tents? More food supplies? All this can be provided if the means to collect and transport the aid are made available. And this aid is available from people who want to help—but these people do not have the means to deliver their donations. It is governments in the region and certified Arab and international humanitarian organizations who are to blame for this.

Political, security and non-governmental organizations have worked hard to curb the activities of organizations that exploit tragedies and catastrophes by collecting donations and spending the money on terrorist activities. Many of these organizations have been shut down. However, some are still active and operate via social networking websites. They work for the interest of extremist and jihadist groups which operate under the slogan of jihad or of aiding the refugees.

We don’t want money or aid from governments. We want them to enable willing people to participate in helping refugees. Millions of supporters and philanthropists, who are moved by the plight of millions of Syrians, want to offer donations but do not have the means to get them to the people who need them.

We therefore call on regional countries and serious, qualified organizations to allow transparent and direct donations to be made—the catastrophe is too grave to be left to the bureaucrats to provide solutions.

The truth is that preventing people from contributing to worthy causes is no less an evil than stealing money allocated for the needy—whether to keep it for oneself or to use it to fund extremism.

If governments like those of Kuwait and other countries in the region want to prevent operations which claim to help Syria’s refugees and fighters but actually do not, then they must push for charitable work to be done via certified channels—including international ones. Organizations with the necessary capacity and experience can cooperate with regional and local organizations to speed up the work, save vital time, and guarantee that the aid is being received.

The task is huge, the situation dangerous, and the people—both the needy and the philanthropists—are angry.