Fayez Sara

Syria’s Aid Problems, Needs

More than any people in the world today, the Syrians are in dire need for support and life improvement, not because of a lack of resources and capabilities, which are in fact many.

The Syrians have something more important than resources. They are known for their strong eagerness to work, their energy, and their ability to create better conditions for life, which is confirmed by their presence in many countries, to which they emigrated or were forced to resort in the past decade.

The most flagrant episode of the Syrian need occurred with the birth of the regime of corruption and tyranny.

The Syrians sought to overcome the regime’s policy of impoverishment with all possible means. Some of them settled in different parts of the world, and invaded the available labor markets, especially in Arab countries, where some survived, while the majority fell under the burden of need.

A study I conducted on poverty in Syria, published in 2010, showed that based on local and international statistics and analyses, the poverty rate in Syria affected two out of every three Syrians at that time. This means that two-thirds of the population left the era of Assad the father, and entered the tenure of Assad Jr. in a state of poverty. This was among the proven reasons for the Syrian revolution in 2011.

Since the early days of the revolution, the regime, along with its military and security apparatus, has resorted to abolishing the economic foundations of Syrian life. It opened the doors to emigration and displacement of the population in parallel with the destruction and looting of their property.

The regime disrupted economic activities and blocked roads, destroyed public facilities and services, and besieged cities, villages and neighborhoods, as part of its strategy to increase the need of the Syrians to facilitate their subjugation and return them to its enclave.

However, the Syrians did not surrender to this brutality. Rather, they organized campaigns of aid and solidarity, to affirm their rejection of the regime and its policies, despite the great human and material losses they incurred, the deterioration of their living standards, and the difficulties they encountered in meeting their needs, whether inside Syria or in neighboring countries where they sought refuge.

Poverty cases, which require assistance, have affected more than 80 percent of the Syrians, according to the United Nations.

Despite the fragmentation of Syria into three de facto entities, the Assad regime, which represents one of them, has sought all along to control international aid, in order to loot it and distribute crumbs to its supporters with the help of its international sponsors, led by the Iranians.

International indolence, and some countries’ neglect of their responsibilities in helping the Syrians, has led to the deterioration of the situation of the Syrian population in all regions.

The earthquake occurred amid this reality, and pushed towards a comprehensive collapse, which affected in particular three of the Syrian deployment areas. The first is represented by ten Turkish provinces, stretching over the northwestern region of the common borders of the two countries. The area accommodates a large portion of Türkiye’s refugees, most of whom are among the poor or the middle class.

In addition to the dead and the wounded, the Syrians living in those areas have lost everything, and have to start from scratch. A clear example is the situation in the province of Hatay, in which most of the buildings in the city of Antioch were leveled to the ground.

The second area hit by the earthquake was northwestern Syria, including the countryside of Aleppo and Idlib, which is called the Turkish control area. The effects of the earthquake were severe due to the human overcrowding and the random and uncontrolled urban expansion.
The earthquake destroyed major population centers and demolished homes and facilities, as happened in Jindires in the city of Afrin, where the majority of inhabitants fell among the dead and wounded, and most of the population lost their property.

The third region extended across the areas controlled by the regime. It affected the governorates of Aleppo, Hama, Tartous, and Lattakia, resulting in great human losses in terms of deaths, injuries, and major damage and destruction of property.

The earthquake increased the needs of the Syrians and turned millions into destitute, a situation that international aid and Syrians’ remittances to their families were supposed to address, even partially.

However, the outcome was less than partial due to several circumstances and reasons, some of which were shrouded in mystery, while others were understood through political ties and considerations, or for particular reasons, which in some cases pertained to the interests of countries, governments, and groups.

All these circumstances combined led to the inability to meet the minimum needs of the Syrian population, not even the required needs, because much is required.

What explains the inefficiency of aid is mainly its course, content, and final destination. In this regard, four observations can be made: The first is represented by the delay in delivering aid. This was evident in its belated arrival and its passage through crossings to areas of need, which increased the suffering of the victims, and proved a failure to respond to the first shocks of the earthquake, and to support the victims and volunteers.

The second is the limited assistance received, especially in the northwest region, which only included emergency aid such as tents, food and medicine, with the absence of rescue teams, equipment and supplies. This reality led to an immense death toll, due to the inability to remove the rubble.

The third observation is the weakness of the quantity and impact of aid in affected environments; despite what was said about the great relief efforts that reached the areas controlled by the regime, or those that arrived via Türkiye. If the latter were distributed in the earthquake-hit areas in Türkiye and northwestern Syria, regions controlled by the regime saw a timid manifestation of aid, mainly because of the regime’s seizure of the international assistance. News also leaked about the Iranians, who control Aleppo, confiscating aid sent by Jordan.

The fourth observation relates to the chaos that prevailed over the distribution of aid, due to the multiplicity of authorities in each region. This further reduced the chances of assistance reaching the beneficiaries, and opened the doors to corruption in the absence of oversight and the overlapping of networks.

Despite the aforementioned observations, one cannot deny that international aid to Syria has contributed to mitigate the disaster, even though it failed to meet the needs of the Syrian population. This is an affirmation of the humanitarian aid approach that the world adopts despite pressures and crises that afflict it and lead to its politicization, as we have seen in Syria; knowing that the crisis in this country should be protected from any politicization, because it is humanitarian in origin.