Bitter irony of assistance

Kuwait's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah alKhalid alSabah speaks at the end of the Second International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria at Bayan Palace in Kuwait, January 15, 2014. (REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee)

Pledges of monetary support to alleviate the horrific humanitarian situation in and around Syria were made once again in Kuwait Wednesday, with the international community able to boast of a new figure of $2.4 billion.

Syrians are probably the first people to look at such developments with a jaundiced eye, because they’re fully aware of the gap between pledged offers of assistance, and actual assistance on the ground.

In past decades, Lebanese and Palestinians have heard they would be receiving hefty sums of money to either recover from war, or press on with survival, but the promises often resulted in deep disappointment.

Syrians today are hearing similar promises, and while the intentions of those who make pledges are certainly honorable, the international community as a whole might need to rethink its approach to alleviating the suffering in Syria.

While there is a gap between what is pledged and what is actually handed over, there is an even bitter irony playing itself out. Heads of state and leading international figures are gathered this week in Kuwait for a donors’ conference while regime blockades of areas in Syria – Yarmouk and Moadamieh near the capital, for example – are firmly in place, preventing the delivery of relief supplies.

Some might suggest that a parallel conference is needed, namely one that figures out how to actually get humanitarian assistance to the people who need it. The international community has made plenty of noise about the need to pressure the regime and anyone else who blocks such aid deliveries, but judging by the sieges that are still in place, agreeing on an approach that goes beyond verbal condemnations should be the first order of the day.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 16, 2014, on page 7.




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