Russian humanitarian aid to Syria

The Russian Center for Reconciliation has carried out seven humanitarian missions in the past 24 hours to reach out to some 6,300 Syrians.

“In the past 24 hours, humanitarian assistance was delivered to 6,300 civilians. The overall weight of humanitarian cargo stood at 6.2 metric tons,” the statement reads.

Russian planes also airdropped 20.6 metric tons of food, provided by the UN, to the city of Deir ez-Zor. The city has been effectively under siege by Islamic State militants, leaving supplies to be delivered solely by air.

In total, Russia delivered more than 160 metric tons of humanitarian cargo to Syrians since the start of 2017.

[TASS]

Conditions for Russian aid to eastern Ukraine

A convoy of 280 Russian trucks reportedly packed with aid headed for eastern Ukraine on Tuesday, but Ukraine said it would not let the mission in because it is not being coordinated by the International Red Cross and could be a covert military operation.

The goods would be stopped at the border and transferred to other vehicles, Reuters news agency reported, citing Ukrainian presidential aide Valery Chaly.

Among the pre-conditions is that these much-needed supplies would be distributed by Ukrainian authorities.  Also, the convoy must cross at a point controlled by the military, not the pro-Russia separatists.

The Russian trucks departed Naro-Fominsk on Tuesday after an agreement was initially reached between Russia and Ukraine on Monday to allow a Red Cross-led humanitarian mission into the eastern region of Luhansk. Luhansk has borne the brunt of the fighting, and food and energy supplies are running short.

Russia has told reporters the trucks will be taking 400 tons of cereals, 100 tons of sugar, 62 tons of baby food, 54 tons of medical drugs and stock, as well as 12,000 sleeping bags and 69 power generators to the civilians of Luhansk.

[Al Jazeera]

Humanitarian groups urge action on Central African Republic

Citing fears of genocide, representatives of humanitarian organizations tried Thursday to focus U.S. lawmakers’ attention on the Central African Republic, where the situation is on the verge of exploding into a “decades-long conflict,” one aid group said.

Mercy Corps believes “right now is the time to act, and we are asking Congress to make smart, forward-thinking decisions,” said Madeline Rose, a policy adviser to the group, in a telephone interview prior to addressing the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on African Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations.

The group fears “that the current crisis in CAR is on the verge of metastasizing into a new, decades-long conflict,” she added. At least 2,000 people have died in the fighting, and 2.2 million others — about half the country’s population — need humanitarian aid, according to the United Nations.

The continuing violence has raised the specter of genocide, as occurred 20 years ago in Rwanda.

“Do not repeat the mistakes of the past — heed the lessons,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said last month during a visit to the country.

Catholic Relief Services Chief Operating Officer Sean Callahan. “The world stood by as nearly one million people were killed in Rwanda 20 yrs ago, and we cannot let the violence tear the social fabric of CAR,” he said.

Rose agreed. “We’ve seen this over and over again in the way the international community responds to crises like these — where we focus too narrowly on short-term, emergency needs and don’t take a step back to make long-term, strategic investments and decisions about how to solve the root problem.”

[CNN]

Humanitarian aid plus covert aid to Syria

The United States has announced it is sending an additional $12 million in humanitarian aid to Syria, warning of a “dire and rapidly deteriorating” situation inside the country.

Citing U.N. estimates, the White House said up to 1.5 million Syrians are in need of aid, including more than 130,000 who have fled the country amid the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

“With these additional funds, the United States is now providing over $76 million in assistance for food, water, medical supplies, clothing, hygiene kits, and other humanitarian relief to those most urgently in need,” the White House said.

The move comes a day after U.S. officials told CNN that President Barack Obama had signed a directive authorizing covert, supposed non-lethal U.S. support for Syrian rebel fighters by the CIA and other agencies. It was unclear exactly what the secret order, referred to as an intelligence “finding,” authorized and when it was signed, but the sources said it was within the past several months.