IRELAND IS TO make up to half a million euro available to humanitarian agencies working on the ground in Syria.
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Eamon Gilmore pledged the money in response to the growing crisis which is on the brink of tipping the country into all-out civil war.
The Minster said the funds would be made available to the Red Cross and UN agencies operating in Syria, as well as in the neighbouring countries of Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.
He said the money will be spent providing immediate relief to those affected by the fighting across the Middle East country. It will also be used to pre-position emergency supplies in case the situation deteriorates further.
The UN estimates that about 7,500 people have died since the uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime started a year ago. It is thought that about 200,000 people have fled their homes amid the widespread destruction.
“Some have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, while hundreds of thousands of civilians have been caught up in the fighting,” said Gilmore. “There is a real risk that the situation could deteriorate further and I believe the international community has a duty to respond.”
The Tánaiste also highlighted the importance of securing immediate and unhindered access for all humanitarian agencies and the UN in Syria.
Despite the valiant efforts of humanitarian agencies to reach those most in need, access to vulnerable communities and regions remains extremely difficult.
The International Committee of the Red Cross was granted permission to enter the besieged neighbourhood of Baba Amr in Homs on Thursday but has yet to be able to deliver emergency supplies, food or medical care.
Syrian forces have claimed that land mines and booby traps have made the area unsafe for aid workers.
In a statement this morning, Gilmore warned against the militarisation of emergency assistance:
It is critical to the integrity and safety of aid operations that they are seen to be independent of all military force. The provision of essential humanitarian relief must be kept separate from other activities.
Minister of State for Trade and Development, Joe Costello has placed Irish Aid’s Rapid Response Corps on standby and offered emergency stockpiles to aid agencies as part of their response.
The Irish Aid Rapid Response Corps and our emergency stockpiles in Dubai are available for immediate dispatch as required. I have asked my officials to keep in close contact with the relief operation and to liaise with the Red Cross and the UN as the situation with regard to humanitarian access and the needs of these agencies gradually becomes clearer.