Russian entry in Syria disrupts already strained aid efforts


October 7, 2015

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  • Will Carter for Mercy Corps

Russian missile strikes in Syria are likely to lead even more Syrians to flee for safety and will make delivery of humanitarian aid to Syrian civilians even more difficult, a Mercy Corps leader warned Congressional leaders during testimony on October 8.

Michael Bowers, Mercy Corps’ vice president for humanitarian leadership and response, told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, that Russian air strikes will likely have a major impact on the balance of power in Aleppo city and the North Aleppo governorates, both places where Mercy Corps has delivered aid for the past three years.

As a result, areas of the country are left vulnerable to the possibility of ISIS gaining new footholds, he said.

“People are increasingly moving closer to the border with Turkey so they can cross if things get too bad,” Bowers said.

Need for Syrian aid continues to increase

The ability to provide aid throughout the region is being severely jeopardized as Mercy Corps balances the urgent need to both protect valuable supplies for unforeseen emergencies and ramp up distributions to those in need.
Mercy Corps is stocking up supplies in areas where civilians may be cut off and strategically repositioning our staff.

After more than four years of civil war, many civilians are left completely reliant on humanitarian help.

"For the first time since Mercy Corps started delivering aid into the Aleppo governorate three years ago, families we spoke to said that they depend on our food aid to survive; their personal resources are now completely exhausted ” Bowers said.

What you need to know about the Syria crisis ▸

Access is a challenge

Mercy Corps has one of the largest operations delivering food assistance in Syria, reaching an estimated 500,000 people per month.

The biggest obstacle to aid delivery in Syria continues to be access. As a result, tens of thousands of Syrians are not receiving any kind of help from humanitarian organizations or the United Nations.

The Syrian regime continues to restrict access; in some areas, agencies wait up to eight months for permission to reach civilians in need. And aid workers, including Mercy Corps’ partners, routinely have to negotiate access across numerous conflict lines to deliver lifesaving supplies.

Read or download Mercy Corps’ written testimony, which includes a detailed account of the current humanitarian situation and our recommendations to Congress.

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