Why We are Failing Aleppo

Currently, more than 2 million people in Aleppo are not receiving the humanitarian assistance that could save their lives. The last aid delivery to the embattled city happened more than a week ago. Aid groups stand poised to deliver, but their access to the city — already limited by the general circumstances of war — is impeded by airstrikes, fighting and even chemical weapon attacks. The roads they would normally use for transporting supplies have been heavily damaged. Medical facilities have been destroyed by bombs, the electrical grid is failing, and the water supply has become seriously unsafe. Sick and injured civilians are unable to leave the city to receive care elsewhere. The remaining residents of the city who already lack access to the most basic needs, including water, food and medicine, live in increasing fear of further besiegement.

Over the past few years, the United Nations, aid groups, and the international community have put out repeated calls for regular humanitarian access into Syria, as well as for humanitarian pauses for particularly desperate areas, such as in the city of Aleppo during the past weeks. While aid deliveries have sporadically gotten through, like some of those in Madaya and Kefraya, countrywide access to people in need is severely restricted and dozens of communities remain under siege by various parties to the conflict. Current conditions in Aleppo are the dramatic manifestations of the most recent, visible horrors we are seeing each day in the media.

A recent proposal by the Russian government for daily 3-hour pauses to allow humanitarian aid into Aleppo is a painful reminder of the Syrian government’s unwillingness to help its own people, given the government’s close relationship with Russia. Three hours simply do not offer enough time for humanitarians to adequately deliver support, evacuate the sick and wounded, and work to repair water and power systems. The conditions of the supply routes alone require substantially more time to navigate just to reach the city. The UN’s humanitarian chief and the head of the International Syria Support Group’s humanitarian task force have both stated that a 48-hour pause is the minimum that would permit proper provision of assistance into Aleppo.

All parties to the conflict in Syria must ensure countrywide humanitarian access, allow humanitarian aid, and guarantee the safety of civilians.

All parties to the conflict in Syria must ensure countrywide humanitarian access, allow humanitarian aid, and guarantee the safety of civilians. To achieve that, there must be an immediate ceasefire in Aleppo, and barring that, the requested 48-hour humanitarian pauses must begin immediately. All sieges of Syrian communities must also be lifted. It has been two and a half years since the initial UN Security Council resolution demanded unimpeded humanitarian access throughout Syria. And it has been eight months since the most recent renewal of that call. Syrian civilians, already brutalized by the intensity of a conflict the international community has not been able to stop, will die of malnutrition, preventable diseases and treatable wounds if the parties to the conflict cannot come to agreement on these critical, lifesaving humanitarian terms. We must do better. 


Top photo: A man rebuilds a wall of a damaged building in the rebel held al-Katerji district in Aleppo, Syria August 13, 2016. REUTERS photo.