Today (24 June 2019), The Telegraph has published an article online about UK aid and Syria, which includes some factually incorrect statements.
The authors claim that UK aid has not gone directly into Idlib since November 2018. This is false. Last year, UK aid in Idlib meant approximately 836,000 people could access clean water, 873,000 people could have medical consultations and 69,000 food rations were given out.
The story also claims that the UN is planning to direct all international aid to Syria through Damascus, which they claim could see DFID funds sent directly to the Assad regime. This is not true. All UK aid is targeted at the people in Syria who need it most, and we are clear that no UK funds are sent directly to the Asad regime.
We commend the UN’s continued efforts to coordinate and implement the international humanitarian response to the Syria crisis, including delivering aid to those who need it most using a variety of different delivery methods from Damascus and cross-border from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. We strongly supported the UN’s efforts to renew UN Security Council Resolution 2449 in December 2018 to permit the continued provision of cross-border aid in Syria which remains a vital part of the UN’s overall humanitarian response in Syria, as well as remaining crucial to DFID’s response. The UK has also been a prominent voice at three emergency sessions of the UN Security Council on Idlib, most recently on 18 June.
We have robust mechanisms in place to ensure aid is only given to the most vulnerable, and we keep this under constant review. We will not hesitate to take firm action if there is reason to believe that UK taxpayers’ money is at risk, as we demonstrated last year when we temporarily paused the use of the Bab al-Hawa crossing while we investigated concerns that fees were being collected from trucks delivering humanitarian aid in Idlib. We resumed aid through this crossing in October 2018, and have since made it clear that DFID-funded programmes are free to use this border crossing to deliver vital aid to Idlib. We have also encouraged our partners to be vigilant and to raise any concerns with us.
All organisations that receive funding from DFID must provide evidence about the use of funds, including audited financial statements. This is closely monitored, and we have no reason to doubt the effectiveness of our approach.
The UK is appalled at the horrific conditions millions of Syrians are living in. We call on all parties to this conflict to adhere to agreed ceasefires and cessations of hostilities in Syria, to respect international humanitarian law and protect civilians and aid workers.