Exactly 13 years ago the UN headquarters in Baghdad was bombed, killing 22 people, most of them aid workers. Now August 19 is marked as World Humanitarian Day, when those who have given their lives trying to help others are remembered.
This year the global humanitarian picture looks particularly grim. Five years of fighting in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, has left much of it in ruins. Starting as an internal civil war, the conflict now involves most of its neighbours and both the United States and Russia.
SYRIA: US scrambled jets over N. Syria after 2 Su-24s bombed dangerously close to US SOF on the ground.- DoD Spox. –
jamiejmcintyre</a></p>— Conflict News (Conflicts) August 19, 2016
Whilst the plight of children such as five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, who was pictured injured and alone in the back of an ambulance in Aleppo, went viral across the world on the day, it is unlikely to spur meaningful political action.
Power cartoon by
khalidalbaih</a> Omran, pulled from the rubble of an airstrike... Aylan drowned in the Med... <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Syria?src=hash">#Syria</a> <a href="https://t.co/y0ejSBjVZc">pic.twitter.com/y0ejSBjVZc</a></p>— Sophie McNeill (Sophiemcneill) August 18, 2016
Humanitarian access to Syria remains shockingly restricted and the UN has grown increasingly frustrated. “Due to the lack of a pause, no humanitarian aid is reaching anywhere in Syria at the moment, except Deir al-Zor, and Aleppo is still, eastern Aleppo, besieged, and western Aleppo, in threat of becoming besieged,” Staffan de Mistura, the UN Envoy to Syria told reporters in New York.
Russia’s warplanes have been bombing rebel positions in Syria and Aleppo for many months and recently it began operating from an airbase in Iran. Under UN pressure Russia say it is ready to establish a truce in Aleppo and that it is willing to distribute humanitarian aid as soon as possible. Meanwhile it is facing allegations from Human Rights Watch that it has dropped incendiary bombs on Syria.
HRW</a> - compelling evidence that <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Russian?src=hash">#Russian</a> used incendiary weapons or participated w <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Syria?src=hash">#Syria</a> in incendiary attacks <a href="https://t.co/VHWS4J6vsX">https://t.co/VHWS4J6vsX</a></p>— Sarah Leah Whitson (sarahleah1) August 18, 2016
On its website Human Rights Watch stated that “incendiary weapons produce heat and fire through the chemical reaction of a flammable substance, causing excruciatingly painful burns that are difficult to treat. The weapons also start fires that are hard to extinguish, destroying civilian objects and infrastructure”.
The UN said it is aiming to get all bombing of the city suspended for 48 hours each week to allow supply trucks to reach some of the two million people who are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, but everyone knows that is a very tall order.