Aid agency voices alarm over ISIS fuel blockade in Syria
BEIRUT - An international medical aid agency on Sunday voiced alarm over a fuel blockade imposed by the Islamic State group in northern Syria that it says is badly hindering relief efforts.
The IS blockade was having an impact on humanitarian relief activities in a region devastated by more than four years of conflict, said Dounia Dekhili, the Syria programme manager for Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
"Many health facilities and aid organisations have had to stop or significantly reduce their activities because of the lack of fuel to power generators and for transportation," she said.
Dekhili said the fuel shortage was further complicated by fighting among various armed groups in the north of Syria, including between IS and the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front.
IS controls oil wells and refineries in eastern Syria, and uses them to put pressure on areas held by mainstream rebel groups fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad.
MSF said health authorities in Hama and Idlib, in central and northwestern Syria, issued distress call over fuel shortages on June 15 and 16, with hospitals seeking help.
Similar appeals have gone out from Aleppo in the north and Latakia, a government stronghold on the Mediterranean coast.
Hospitals were in danger of being forced to close and "the lives of many Syrians are at even greater risk," said Dekhili.
"Fuel is needed to power pumps for drinking water, incubators for newborns and to run ambulances," she added.
MSF had begun to supply some fuel but "the support we provide will only have a short-term impact," said Dekhili.
"We therefore call upon all parties to the Syrian conflict to allow regular fuel supplies within the country to meet the massive and immediate needs of the population."
The agency has five medical facilities inside Syria and provides direct support to more than 100 clinics, health facilities and field hospitals.