The heinous attack against a UN humanitarian aid convoy near Aleppo shocked the world. It is a sad manifestation of the great danger humanitarian workers are facing in Syria today.
Humanitarian workers are facing intense danger, risking their lives to save others. “In Syria today, carrying humanitarian aid puts you in greater danger than carrying a weapon,” according to one aid worker.
Humanitarian aid outside the supervision of the government has been forbidden in Syria since 2012, as all aid is channeled through the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and other agencies registered with the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Thus, the work of grassroots humanitarian groups and NGOs working in opposition-controlled areas is effectively criminalized. People delivering humanitarian assistance face the danger of being put on trial before a military tribunal for “funding terrorist activities”. Any assistance to civilian populations in opposition-controlled areas, any services provided to areas outside the government control, is considered by the authorities as an act of resistance, as tacit support for the opposition.
Humanitarian assistance, which follows the principle of impartiality and neutrality, therefore has to be delivered in great confidentiality, through secret networks bound together by solidarity. Supplies are smuggled through tunnels and along dirt roads, over rivers and on the backs of donkeys through rough mountain terrain, in order to reach those communities that are cut off from all basic support.