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Tuesday 17 May 2016

Food not bombs!

From today’s statement by the International Syria Support Group:

The ISSG insisted on concrete steps to enable the provision of urgent humanitarian deliveries to the following locations: Arbeen, Darraya, Douma, East Harasta, Mouadhimiyeh, Zabadin and Zamalka. Regular humanitarian deliveries must continue, according to the UN’s monthly plans, to all other besieged and hard to reach locations, including Fouah, Kefraya, Kafr Batna, Ein Terma, Hammura, Jisrein, Madaya, Zabadani, Yarmouk. Starting June 1, if the UN is denied humanitarian access to any of the designated besieged areas, the ISSG calls on the World Food Program to immediately carry out a program for air bridges and air drops for all areas in need. The ISSG pledges to support such a program, and also calls on all parties to the cessation of hostilities to provide a secure environment for that program. Air deliveries should also continue to Dayr al-Zour. The ISSG stressed that such access, as in other areas, must be continuous for as long as humanitarian needs persist. Humanitarian access to these most urgent areas will be a first step toward full, sustained, and unimpeded access throughout the country.

Full statement here.

Syria Solidarity UK welcomes today’s statement by the International Syria Support Group that the World Food Programme should start air drops of food to all besieged areas on 1st June should the UN continue to be denied ground access to besieged areas in Syria.

We are particularly pleased that this proposal came from the UK (according to Mr Philip Hammond) since we and others have been active in promoting the idea in the UK Parliament and elsewhere over the last months.

Since January 2016, almost 64,000 UK residents have signed the petition to Parliament for air drops of aid.

The Government's initial response was that air drops ‘cannot operate effectively.’

In response to an Urgent Question from Jo Cox MP on 11 January, which proposed emergency air drops, the Government stated that while ‘we do not rule anything out’ there was a risk of the aid ‘ending up in the wrong hands,’ and suggesting there was a lack of ‘people on the ground to distribute that aid fairly.’

On 5 April the women of Daraya (a suburb of Damascus a short drive from the UN’s quarters in the Four Seasons Hotel) issued an urgent plea for help to end the starvation sieges.

Women4Syria (a coalition of women’s groups coordinated by women in Syria Solidarity UK) responded with a public statement calling again for air drops, and organised a demonstration on 30th April, where bread was thrown over the gates of 10 Downing Street to urge David Cameron to ‘drop food not bombs’ on Daraya and other besieged areas.

Following that demonstration, and in response to it, Daraya Council contacted the UK directly calling for humanitarian airdrops. Clearly there were ‘people on the ground,’ i.e. democratically elected local councils who could reliably distribute food and medical supplies.

Other groups such as Women in Black (a peace group and member organisation of Women4Syria) took up the call to ‘drop food not bombs’ in their monthly vigils for Syria.

Meanwhile, in an iniative led by UK MPs, European MPs spoke out on 28 April. And Syrian and UK doctors and aid workers of UOSSM, Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations, also called for airdrops to all besieged areas.

The catastrophic failure of the UN’s attempted delivery of aid to Daraya on 12 May was the moment when excuses ran out. Not only did the regime turn back the convoy, but it bombed the civilians awaiting the delivery.

Finally today in Vienna, there was a glimmer of hope for the townspeople of Daraya and the many other besieged areas, and it seems the bluff of the Assad regime has been called. But public and parliamentary vigilance and pressure, which has led to this breakthrough, will need to be maintained until all the starvation sieges are broken.