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Under the cover of potential global war in the Middle East, the final strangle hold is being tightened on the 3 million civilians remaining in Idlib.  Many are internally displaced people who have been bombed from pillar to post across Syria for the last 8 years, they are now to be starved as well on ‘our’ watch.  The UN mandate to provide cross border humanitarian aid via Turkey ran out on Jan 10th after a vote to extend it was vetoed by Russia and others last month. The recent tensions with Iran has also ensured this crisis is in danger of going unnoticed.

Every conceivable war crime has been perpetrated in Syria and condoned it would appear, by the UN and others.  Extensive use of chemical weapons has been hugely successful and now in the armoury of every dictator, despot, rogue state and terrorist.  Constant and direct targeting of hospitals and medical staff have left one major hospital and a few clinics to deal with millions of women and children.  This evil tactic is now also common place amongst those who seek to spread their evil dogma elsewhere on the planet.  And now the civilians are to be starved and allowed to die for want of the most basic medical supplies, food and help.  Little wonder ISIS and Al Qaeda rise phoenix like from these improbable ashes.

My dear friend of many years, Dr Omar, a consultant surgeon in one of the few facilities still operating in Idlib, confirms he and his staff have not been paid for 6 months and are out of all medicines including even the most basic such as paracetamol.  For years the doctors who had money had been sustaining large extended families.  ‘Kill a doctor and thousands will starve’ – this is only too well known by the aggressors in Syria and now elsewhere, thanks to collective global inaction.

Thankfully at least, the prospect of WW3 appears to be receding and perhaps an emboldened Trump will see his way to spreading some of his ‘sparkle’ on the destitute of Idlib?  Similarly, now in the UK, after 3 years, we have an effective parliament in London and can look outwards from Europe and ‘hopefully’ get back to do what we really do well – humanitarian support. 

There are too many in the traditional ‘humanitarian system’ who think, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria are the same place requiring the same solution – they are very different and must be treated as so.  Otherwise, we get a ‘hotchpotch’ of ineffective activity as we see in Syria.  Humanitarian intervention must be a comprehensive solution involving FCO, DFID and MOD in the UK’s case, and not individual fiefdoms overly protective of their budgets and ‘space’.  I welcome the ‘root and branch’ review being suggested by the new government on how these agencies should operate in future, and the possible combination of one or some of them must be an option?

But, in the short term, we must get aid flowing back into Idlib and strain every nerve and sinew to minimise the massacre of civilians, a daily occurrence in Idlib, before Assad retakes the province and then we are invited in with our £ millions to pick up the pieces.

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon.


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