"We know that the money you raise today in London is unlikely to reach us or alleviate the suffering in our besieged areas."
To David Cameron, Angela Merkel, Erna Solberg, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Gen Sec Ban Ki-moon and the other heads of governments meeting in London:
Thank you for coming together today to offer your support for the Syrian people inside and outside Syria. We hope the Syria Donors Conference 2016 will provide a boost to the humanitarian response to all Syrians. However, we are not optimistic.
As Syrian activists and humanitarians working in the besieged areas of Syria, we are witnessing a first-hand catastrophe that includes starvation, injury and death due to blockades and bombardment. We are doing the best we can to keep people alive with the little resources that we have, but we simply do not have the food, medicine or medical equipment to sustain our communities.
In our towns, parents are forced to make the heartbreaking choice of deciding which of their children will be fed on a particular day. We are watching children die of hunger and young and old alike dying from the most curable of diseases. With only very limited access to power, our doctors have to operate using torches and only the most primitive of tools. They are going for days without sleep in order to keep our field hospitals running. Our activists are being shot by snipers for trying to smuggle in blood bags.
We know that the money you raise today in London is unlikely to reach us or alleviate the suffering in our besieged areas. The UN, and its partners, have not been able to deliver the aid that we need. The UN humanitarian organisations have not been seen in our towns for months, sometimes even years. Nineteen more people have died of starvation in Madaya since the last UN convoys pulled out of the town on the 16th of January. It is an undeniable tragedy that the billions of dollars in aid you pledge today is not going to reach those that need it the most.
In order to really help the people in Syria we are calling on you to do the following:
1. Push the UN to deliver aid to break the sieges. Under three successive UN Security Council Resolutions the humanitarian organisations do not need the Syrian government’s consent in order to deliver aid, they merely need to inform the regime that they are making the deliveries. The UN must also speak out and stop under-reporting sieges in Syria. The Humanitarian Response Plan, which forms the basis of your donations today, does not mention besieged communities, including Madaya. We were outraged to learn that the Syrian government, which is responsible for 99% of the aid blockades, was able to exert editorial control over the HRP. This means much of the language was diluted and paragraphs erased
2. If aid trucks are not able to pass, donor governments and the UN should conduct airdrops to starving towns.These airdrops should be coordinated with humanitarians on the ground who can administer this aid and make sure it reaches the people who need it most. Russia has been conducting airdrops into Deir Ezzor but, too often, it falls into the hands of the regime fighters and does not reach civilians.
Millions of Syrians today are dependent on humanitarian aid. It is a painful position for us to be in; aid comes with its own indignities and compromises. Instead of being able to work and build better lives for our children, we are battling a daily struggle to survive. It is not a natural disaster that has forced us into this position of dependence but the brutal punishment of the Assad regime, after men and women took to town and city squares to demand their political rights. These same towns and cities are now the scenes of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The drip-feed of humanitarian aid will only alleviate a tiny proportion of this suffering. We ask that you do everything in your power to protect ordinary Syrians from these war crimes. This would mean breaking the sieges, establishing no-fly zones so that civilian communities are protected from the bombing and and freeing detainees.
The suffering in Syria will continue until you decide to end it.