By: Max Creager ~Staff Writer~
The UN attempted to air-drop 21 tons of food to more than 200,000 civilians in the besieged city of Deir el-Zour in Syria on Feb. 24. The World Food Programme (WFP) stated that it has not been able to reach the civilian population of Dier el-Zour since March 2014. Wednesday’s drop was the first high altitude drop the WFP has tried over Syria. However, most of the food aid missed its intended recipients.
Ten of the 21 pallets of food are unaccounted for, as they drifted away from the city due to high winds and missed the drop zone. Seven other pallets are believed to have landed in an uncontrolled “no-man’s land” area that may contain land mines. The other four pallets did land in the city of Deir el- Zour, but because their parachutes did not open or deploy properly, the food was severely damaged.
WFP spokeswoman Abeer Efta explained why the drops were so unsuccessful.
“This plane had to fly at a high altitude to avoid rockets, missiles and gunfire,” Efta said. “We are disappointed that people who were anxiously waiting to receive this food did not receive it. Airdrops are always a last option … (but) this is a desperate measure in desperate times.”
United Nations (UN) Humanitarian Coordinator Stephen O’Brien stated that many villages have been reached by aid convoys in Syrian regime-controlled cities such as Madaya and Zabadani, but he added that there were unacceptable delays and blamed the Syrian government for playing games with humanitarian aid.
“Humanitarian operations cannot continue to be bogged down by unnecessary and unacceptable restrictions, obstructions and deliberate delays that are costing people their lives,” O’Brien said.
“The number, scope and complexity of bureaucratic and other obstacles that are placed in the path of simple aid deliveries are staggering,” O’Brien said. “To move a single truck, United Nations teams on the ground need to acquire multiple layers of approval from officials at various different levels, necessitating repeated rounds of negotiations.”
Many reports have feared that the Assad Regime is using a starvation tactic deliberately. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry criticized the regime for “dragging its feet” to allow for aid to reach civilian populations.
“We call on the Assad regime to, at least in a moment of cessation of hostilities, try to show some measure of decency, if that is even possible,” Kerry said. “And our hope is that they will also stop their people, their troops and their officials who get in the way or manage these shipments, from actually putting their hands into the shipments and taking out medicine or taking out other preferred items simply to keep for themselves.”
In the five-year long war, more than half of Syria’s population has been killed, injured or displaced. According to UN reports, more than 250,000 people have been killed and more than 1 million injured, 4.6 million Syrians have been forced to leave the country and 6.6 million are internally displaced.