In Islamic State group-controlled areas, a Catch-22 for humanitarians

Returnees in villages that came under the control of ISIS receive hygiene kits, water and food in Iraq. Delivering much-needed aid to areas controlled by militant groups requires careful maneuvering and negotiations. Photo by: Caroline Gluck / ECHO / CC BY-ND

Last week, the World Food Program released a statement about recent photos that show WFP food boxes bearing the label of the Islamic State group. While the images, which seem to have been taken in Dayr Hafr, a town 50 kilometers away from Aleppo, Syria, are still being verified by WFP, the message they sent was clear: Humanitarian groups are treading a risky path by operating in conflict zones.

It was in August 2014 that WFP last reached Dayr Hafr, where it delivered 1,700 food rations that were enough to feed 8,500 people for a month. WFP learned, however, that just a month after its delivery, Islamic State group militants seized the warehouses of its partner, Syrian Arab Red Crescent, in Dayr Hafr, where undistributed food parcels may have been stored.

“WFP condemns this manipulation of desperately needed food aid inside Syria,” Muhannad Hadi, WFP’s emergency regional coordinator for the Syria crisis, said in a statement. “We urge all parties to the conflict to respect humanitarian principles and allow humanitarian workers including our partners to deliver food to the most vulnerable and hungry families.”

A paper from IRIN and the Overseas Development Institute’s Humanitarian Policy Group published last December paints a picture of the limited aid delivery in Islamic State group-controlled areas.

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    Anna Patricia Valerio

    Anna Patricia Valerio is a Manila-based development analyst focusing on writing innovative, in-the-know content for senior executives in the international development community. Before joining Devex, Patricia wrote and edited business, technology and health stories for BusinessWorld, a Manila-based business newspaper.