Monday, March 4, 2013

The Struggle to Feed Northern Syria

Local councils in northern Syria are continuously scrambling to feed the residents of their towns. This has provided an opening for Jihadi groups to play the role of provider. David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times published an article this past week detailing Jabhat al-Nusrah’s role in providing flour at a reduced rate to the Tilalyan local council in northern Aleppo Province. Jabhat al-Nusrah is not the only Jihadi group providing supplies to local councils.

In mid-February, the Sarmada Local Council announced that Ahrar al-Sham, a loose network of Jihadi groups that often conduct joint operations with Jabhat al-Nusrah, provided five days worth of flour to the council. The council is fortunate that is does not rely solely on Ahrar al-Sham for its flour. It also receives assistance from local merchants and reported receiving over ten days worth of flour from the National Coalition which was supplied by the UAE's Red Crescent. As with many towns, the Sarmada Local Council is endlessly searching for benefactors to get them through another week.

The UN is the international body best equipped to address the problem, but it is hampered by legal requirements. It can only enter Syria when permitted by the Assad regime and the Assad regime will only allow the UN to bring in aid through the border crossings that it controls, none of which are in Idlib or Aleppo. The UN has alternate routes into the northwest, but has only been able to make two large aid deliveries, and is facing some resentment by local opposition groups. In any case, the UN is facing a budget shortfall making it difficult to feed refugees living in UN administered camps, never mind those still in Syria.

Although the involvement of Jihadi groups in relief efforts is worrying, they are unlikely to gain the undivided loyalty of the northern Syrians by being just one of many aid providers. It will, however, complicate western efforts to isolate these groups. They not only fight well, but they are helping families eat.

No comments:

Post a Comment