Group says Red Cross aid is being diverted

Children are especially vulnerable during war time Keystone

A medical aid group has alleged that Syrian troops are confiscating foreign aid for the treatment of government loyalists. In other cases, it is either resold or destroyed, according to the Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organizations (UOSSM), whose spokesman is based in Geneva.

This content was published on November 7, 2012 - 21:42 and agencies

“When the regime attacks one of our medical facilities, whether it's a hospital or something else, they load up everything they can carry, and they burn the rest," Tawfik Chamaa, a Geneva-based doctor and UOSSM spokesman said at a media conference in Geneva on Wednesday.

He pointed out that millions of lives were at risk: “They take as much as they can, and that just depends on how many soldiers they have, but most of the time they resell it on the black market.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) have told Reuters that two of Chamaa’s claims about other foreign aid being diverted were unsubstantiated. Yet the ICRC says it is taking the allegations “very seriously” and following them up with the Syrian authorities.

Because public hospitals only treat supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the UOSSM has established 30 field hospitals, Chamaa said. Established in Paris in January, the UOSSM is comprised of some 15 volunteer relief groups and hundreds of doctors of Syrian origin.

"So we are setting up these first-aid points, these secret hospitals, at our own risk, to meet the needs of the rest – the civilians who have been shelled, women and children, people who can't get to public hospitals for whatever reason, knowing that a wounded person who goes into a public hospital risks being arrested or executed, because they'll be seen as the enemy."

“Dying in silence”

Pregnancy, chronic illnesses, hunger and cold are also threats to civilians in Syria.

“We have people dying in their homes from all these conditions, through a lack of health care, simply because they can't get out and get help, even if they can afford it. And this is not included in the statistics that you hear on a daily basis, of 150-200 dead. They are dying in silence," Chamaa said.

According to Chamaa, Syrian authorities and soldiers benefited from supply sets sent to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) centre in Damascus.

“Whenever such facts are clearly established, which does not appear to be the case now, we treat them very seriously and address (them) directly with the management of SARC and Syrian authorities,” Anastasia Isyuk, an ICRC spokeswoman in Geneva, told Reuters in response.

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