Conflict fatigue, lack of political will hurting relief efforts

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Conflict fatigue, lack of political will hurting relief efforts

Apart from the UAE, the world is spending less on humanitarian causes.

By Allan Jacob

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Published: Wed 19 Aug 2015, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Thu 20 Aug 2015, 11:00 AM

Suddenly, funds for humanitarian aid are drying up as wars rage in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Millions are being displaced. A stark reminder to global powers that without firming up alliances for peace, they cannot alleviate the suffering of millions. The world is facing the largest refugee crisis since World War II with 60 million homeless people to feed and tend to.
But why are countries backing off when there is call for action to ease the pain of the masses in conflict zones? The reasons are many. Look at Syria. The conflict there has dragged on for four years and new terror in the form of Daesh has emerged. So what good can come out of charity for a country on the brink that is expected to go down the abyss with every bombing, decapitation and exodus of refugees. Terror has become an industry and outfitters of violence are stamping their mark with every strike they make on innocents. The number of people fleeing strife-stricken countries like Syria is rising. They are taking rickety boats to Europe from countries like Libya.

The media that once lapped up the Arab Spring now treats all this destruction and throat-slitting as mere spectacles. Terror groups, who are responsible for the deaths of thousands, are also responsible for the media overkill on social media. Other news outlets add some reactions, tally the figures - the victims being mere statistics even as their numbers continue to rise with each report.
Ordinary people are faced with conflict fatique because there is no resolution in sight. Governments could be withholding financial support to aid agencies because they fear the flow of large sums of money and relief materials cannot be monitored amid the chaos because it could fall into the wrong (terrorist) hands. Unless Daesh is bombed out of existence, there is little that can be done to save people from Daesh's clutches. The group does not recognise civilisation and will not accept supplies even as its captives bleed to death. One can say with certainty that political will is woefully lacking to stop the fighting. But was there ever any will in the first place, even for a truce that could have created breathing space for people in distress?
The biggest crisis closer home - in Syria - will require $2.9 billion this year to assist the 7.6 million people thrown out of their homes by the fighting and strugggling to fend for themselves. There are also 3.8 million refugees to look after as they flock to Europe and other countries in search of a better ter life. Last year, UN agencies received just 48 per cent of the amount requested by them. The situation will only get worse as the US plans to broaden its operations against the Daesh terrorists in the country from air bases in Turkey.
Hitting Daesh positions will not spare ordinary civilians from the agony they are already enduring. The Assad regime is raining barrel bombs. Collateral damage is being done by both sides, but such are the perils when you have to check the advance of the militant group, which controls large tracts of land in the country and in neighbouring Iraq.
Humanitarian causes are being held hostage to a clash of political wills. The US, Gulf states and Russia find themselves on different pages which make a common policy for peace in Syria and Iraq appear distant. To reach solutions for ordinary Syrians, it is vital to get to the root of the problem - the exit of President Assad or the destruction of Daesh.
The World Food Programme says the international community is deserting people in war zones like Syria where 220,000 have died in four years of war.
World Food Programme officials say major funding cuts have forced the agency to slash food assistance by up to 50 per cent. "For affected populations in Syria and refugees around the region, WFP food assistance provides stability," says Executive Director Ertharin Cousin. "To provide this assistance, we rely on the generosity of the international community. We simply cannot let them down."
This cash crunch has forced the organisation to reduce the level of the assistance it provides to some 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon. Operations in Turkey, Iraq and Egypt have also been affected, officials claim.
With food handouts ending or tapering off, many refugee families are pulling out their children from school and putting them to work. Others are being lured by human trafficking gangs who ship them into the Daesh heartland where some work as child soldiers and others as slaves.
Host countries like Jordan, which house 770,000 Syrians, are bearing the burden but their resources are stretched. The WFP says it needs $163 million to continue to provide food to people in the troubled region through October.
Meanwhile, the UAE is surmounting this lack of coordination for Syria and Yemen by initiating rebuilding efforts on its own. In Yemen, the country boosted humantarian efforts with an additional Dh300 million through the UAE Red Crescent. It plans to rebuild the country once the rebel Houthis are driven out, drawing inspiration from its development projects in Somalia, which have brought down incidents of maritime piracy by Somali gangs. The UAE's humanitarian aid totalled Dh4.9 billion in five years (2009-2014).
But reconstruction in Syria with no signs of peace, or even a truce, is hard to imagine. The world must choose between Daesh or Assad in Syria, if humanitarian aid must flow, and what is left of humanity in the country is to survive.

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