The calls come in a new report, Hard Lessons, in which the agencies outline some of the difficulties faced in one of the most challenging contexts in the world to deliver aid on the basis of need in line with humanitarian principles. Specific barriers examined include bureaucratic obstacles that can lead to months of delays to implement new work; difficulties negotiating certain types of humanitarian activities with government authorities; limits to engaging directly with communities; and lack of funding to scale up quickly.
While delivering principled humanitarian aid in government-held areas is possible, a reduction in bureaucracy and additional support from international donors are needed to meet the scale and scope of the needs across the country, the agencies stressed from their experiences working in government-held areas in Syria over ten combined years of operations.
Though the levels of violence in large parts of the country have reduced, 11.1 million people still need humanitarian aid – over sixty percent of whom are in government-controlled areas. People in Syria continue to face widespread threats to their safety, including from unexploded ordnance and gender-based violence. Homes and schools have been destroyed, neighbourhoods lack clean running water and sanitation, and people lack the means of making a living to feed their families.
As more areas have come under government control in the past two years, both agencies are facing challenges in providing humanitarian assistance in these areas, including in Dar’a, Eastern Ghouta, rural Homs, and Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa governorates. It is critical that aid delivery is not stifled by unnecessary barriers as millions of families struggle to put food on the table and buy essentials in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the depreciation of the currency and a nosediving economy, the agencies stressed.
Where aid agencies are prevented from helping communities on the basis of need, Oxfam and NRC argue that the projects should be reduced or shut down altogether.
- Oxfam has been registered in Syria since 2013 and has reached more than 2 million people with humanitarian assistance. This includes providing access to: safe, clean water and to more nutritious food; toilets and sanitation; hygiene materials; cash; vocational training; and winter clothing. Oxfam has worked in 11 of Syria's 14 governorates, including programming across conflict lines from Damascus. It has offices in Damascus, Aleppo and Deir ez-Zor.
- Since its registration in Damascus in October 2015, the Norwegian Refugee Council has assisted more than half a million people in Syria with shelter, water and sanitation, non-food items (NFIs), livelihoods and capacity-building programmes. This includes rehabilitating more than 100 schools to make them safe and welcoming learning spaces. It has offices in Damascus and Aleppo.
- Read the full report Hard Lessons here.