Almost all international aid sent to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent is being confiscated by the regime and never reaches civilians in need, an umbrella relief group for the war-ravaged country said Wednesday.
“Ninety, even 95 percent of everything that is sent to Syrian Red Crescent headquarters in Damascus goes to support the Syrian regime, especially the soldiers...,” said Tawfik Chamaa, spokesman for the Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organizations (UOSSM).
“It will not reach the civilians who are bombed every day or besieged,” he told reporters in Geneva.
He charged that cash or materials sent to the Red Crescent in Damascus was being “confiscated by the regime”.
However, the World Food Program denied that its aid to Syria was being seized.
Some 1.2 million people inside Syria are in need of emergency humanitarian aid, according to the United Nations, as the conflict nears its 20th month with a death toll activists says now tops 36,000.
Chamaa, a founding member of the umbrella group of 14 aid organizations from countries including France, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States, urged bigger humanitarian agencies to ensure that aid sent actually reaches people in need in Syria.
He said a convoy of 11 trucks belonging to the U.N. World Food Program (WFP), whose aid is largely distributed by the Red Crescent, had recently disappeared in northern Syria.
But WFP spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said: “I believe there is absolutely no confiscation” and defended the local Red Crescent.
“WFP food monitors are able to visit most areas to check that food is reaching the people who need it most. Even in some dangerous areas, they use WFP armored vehicles.”
She insisted that the Red Crescent, “as the designated coordinator of humanitarian assistance in the country, operates through branches in an independent manner”.
The International Committee of the Red Cross, which also provides aid to the country through the Red Crescent, had no immediate comment.
The UOSSM, which has set up around 30 field hospitals around Syria and is trying to establish 30 more, believes that the war-torn country is heading towards a humanitarian “catastrophe,” Chamaa said.
He said that for every one of the more than 36,000 people who have been killed in Syria since the uprising began in March last year, according to activists, between four and six people were wounded.
In addition to those directly affected by the fighting, there were also many people dying “silent deaths” -- not from bullets or bombings, but simply from a lack of medicines and access to medical care for diseases like cancer or diabetes or health issues such as Caesarian births.
The UOSSM was set up at the beginning of the year mainly by Syrian doctors living in the diaspora.