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22/07/2012 | Middle East - Syria (Opinion): As desperate Syrians flee, UN pleas for aid go unmet

Editorial

As the terror in Syria’s civil war escalates, another crisis is developing: desperate people on the run. They are fleeing even Damascus, the capital, as President Bashar Assad hammers rebellious areas with tank fire, helicopter rockets and artillery. Tens of thousands of refugees are pouring into Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.

 

As the United Nations Security Council wrings its hands over the conflict, relief agencies are struggling to feed 850,000 people, and coping with a refugee exodus that currently numbers 110,000 but could easily double if the fighting continues. In the past few days up to 30,000 more have fled, swamping the available help.

Yet despite what John Ging, the UN’s humanitarian point man, describes as the war’s “devastating impact,” the world has been slow to respond. The Star’s Olivia Ward reported this week that the UN needs $382 million in aid but has received only a fifth of that.

So far the usual suspects have given generously. According to the UN Financial Tracking Service, the United States has given $40 million this year alone, Australia $14 million and Canada $8.5 million. But others who fancy themselves players in the Middle East have given little or nothing. Russia has given $1.5 million, China nothing. Iran has given nothing. Saudi Arabia isn’t on the list. Collectively, the oil-rich Gulf States have ponied up less than Australia.

Russia and China are Assad’s best friends. They have blocked tough UN action to bring the conflict to an end. And Iran has given Assad moral support. All three are now displaying cruel indifference to the Syrian people’s suffering. This will be remembered long after the regime is in history’s dumpster.

It is one thing to shield a despot from UN censure and sanctions. It is another to shrug as a million people are suffering and fleeing with just the clothes on their backs, and aid agencies are begging for food, tents, medicine and clean water.

As the U.S., Britain and others are now doing, Canada should dig a bit deeper to help the UN cope with this growing crisis. And we should name and shame those who can’t be bothered to lend a hand.


The Star (Canadá)

 


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