News / Middle East

    Aid Airdrops to Syria's Besieged Called Too Dangerous

    Tech. Sgt. Lynn Morelly, 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, C-17 Globemaster III loadmaster, watches bundles of halal meals parachute to the ground during a humanitarian airdrop mission over Iraq, Aug. 9, 2014. To date, in coordination with the governm
    Tech. Sgt. Lynn Morelly, 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, C-17 Globemaster III loadmaster, watches bundles of halal meals parachute to the ground during a humanitarian airdrop mission over Iraq, Aug. 9, 2014. To date, in coordination with the governm
    Associated Press

    As images and reports of starvation in besieged Syrian communities drew an international outcry and two rare aid convoys this month, an urgent question arose: Why not drop food and other needed supplies by air?

    Humanitarian access is a key issue as the United Nations tries to get Syrian parties to peace talks tentatively set for Monday. And it's the focus of a pledging conference on Feb. 4 in London, with the leaders of countries including Germany and Iran expected to attend.

    Almost five years after Syria's civil war began, the U.N. says more than 393,000 people are besieged. Food aid reached less than 1 percent of them last year. About 181,000 are besieged by Syria's government.

    'We have the assets'

    Aid airdrops in Syria are possible to do, the U.S. Air Force secretary noted last week. "If we're asked to do it, we have the assets, we have the people, we know how to do airdrops," Deborah Lee James told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

    Russia, the Syrian government's strongest ally, this month announced airdrops to the city of Deir el-Zour, where government-held areas are blockaded by Islamic State militants and an estimated 200,000 people are besieged.

    The U.N. also has the capacity; the World Food Program has made airdrops to hard-to-reach areas in other countries. And a series of U.N. Security Council resolutions since early 2014 allow for aid deliveries without the permission of Syria's government, though their effect on airdrops is not clear.

    But while diplomats, aid workers and U.N. officials say they are exploring all options to reach besieged communities, they say airdrops face deep complications both political and logistical.

    Without permission from Syria's government for airdrops -- something the U.N. says it does not have -- there is the risk of Syria responding with force.

    "If we fly aircraft over Syria without the permission of the Syrian government, then there is a real danger that they will take action against them. And that is not going to help anybody," one Security Council diplomat said.

    'Risk of being shot down'

    Valerie Szybala, executive director of The Syria Institute and the author of a report last year on besieged communities, was more blunt: "Anyone who enters Damascus airspace without the consent of the Syrian military and Russia runs a very real risk of being shot down."

    For Syrians who see the U.S.-led coalition and Russia carry out airstrikes in Syria and the U.S. drop weapons to Kurdish fighters battling the Islamic State, there is frustration that food and similar aid isn't being dropped as well.

    "When they bombed ISIS, did they ask the government's permission?" said Fadi Hallisso, using an acronym for the Islamic State group. Hallisso is the head of an aid organization, Basmeh and Zeitooneh, run by Syrian refugees like himself. "When they want something, they find a way to do it."

    While the U.N. says all sides in the conflict have blocked the delivery of aid, it has repeatedly criticized Syria's government. The U.N. secretary-general's latest report on the crisis, dated Thursday and obtained by The Associated Press, says that since the beginning of 2015, just 13 inter-agency convoys have been approved by the government and completed, out of 113 requested.

    Airdrops ruled out

    Despite the need, the World Food Program has ruled out doing airdrops in Syria.

    "Airdrops require approvals for use of airspace, staff on the ground to organize and distribute and a drop zone that is clear of obstacles. Those conditions are not met in besieged areas of Syria," WFP spokesman Gerald Bourke said in an email.

    Some aid groups call airdrops the last resort. In general, "you need people on the ground to ensure everything is getting to the right place," said Noah Gottschalk, Oxfam's senior policy adviser for humanitarian response. After Russia dropped supplies into Deir el-Zour, activists said government security forces collected them to sell at the market.

    Airdropping "lets governments have an easy quick win," said Frances Charles, advocacy director for World Vision's Syria efforts. It doesn't mean sustained access, and it draws away energy that should be spent on getting sieges lifted, she said.

    But in a sign of how dire access remains in Syria, some aid workers are looking into the logistics of airdrops, just in case.

    You May Like

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Who Are US Allies in Fight Against Islamic State?

    There is little but opportunism keeping coalition together analysts warn — SDFs Arab militias are not united even among themselves, frequently squabble and don’t share Kurds' vision for post-Assad Syria

    Learning Foreign Language Helps US Soldiers Bridge Culture Gap

    Effective interaction with local populations part of everyday curriculum at Monterey, California, Defense Language Institute

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora