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Time for Delivery of Food and Water Bombs by Drone?

Voluminous thinking to complement the lateral thinking of the international community (Part #1)


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Media coverage of the dramatic humanitarian situation in Aleppo repeatedly makes the case for the inability of trucks with remedial food supplies to get through safely to the areas most in need. At the same time much is made of the extent to which those areas are bombed disastrously.

Debate on the occasion at the UN General Assembly focuses intensely on the failure of various parties to enable, or to allow, safe passage of food supplies by truck. Various parties are accused of bombing those same areas and increasing the tremendous suffering of the people there. There is widespread media coverage of trucks blocked on the road or disastrously attacked. The process of delivery has been variously suspended (UN aid convoy delivering food destroyed by airstrikes in Syria, The Journal, 19 September 2016).

There is clearly considerable capacity and skill in the delivery of bombs of various kinds to the Syrian arena by various parties exploiting the air space. It is however clear that those who choose to do so are able to disrupt key access roads by a variety of means.

It is however puzzling how the international community is challenged to deliver food -- deploring only, as it does, the safety of access roads. Dramatic incidents are cited in support of that inability. The bombing goes on. Airdrops have indeed been undertaken by the UN and considered (UN delivers food aid by air drop to besieged Syrian city, Associated Press, 11 April 2016; UN air drops to deliver aid to besieged Syrian towns agreed, The Telegraph, 17 May 2016; Regime raids kill dozens in Aleppo, UN to meet on airdrops, AFP, 3 June 2016). Most recent news indicates lack of water (Syria bombings leave 1.75 million without running water in Aleppo, The Guardian, 24 September 2016).

Technical reviews of the possibility of such humanitarian aid delivery are available (André Jansens, Aerial Food Delivery: Overview).

Given the mass media coverage, and the urgency of the debates at the UN General Assembly in September 2016, why is there currently no indication of the possibility of further airdrops of supplies, given their previous use by the World Food Programme and plans for their use in Syria? Has the possibility of airdrops of food and relief supplies been deliberately confused with the possibility of airdrops of weaponry (U.S.-led coalition airdrops weapons to Syria rebels in Aleppo province, Reuters, 2 June 2016; Syria air drop plan appears to stall as first medical aid convoy reaches Daraya, Middle East Eye, 2 June 2016; Russian Aid and Airdrops in Syria, South Front, 2016)?

The World Food Programme has also argued that:

The World Food Programme has completed its 100th airdrop of food to families in the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor. Air drops are always a last resort but with access roads heavily damaged and armed groups present in the area, they have become the only option in delivering desperately needed food to the city... Airdrops are not possible in Aleppo and other besieged cities or towns in built-up areas. This is because we need a large, safe drop zone, within which cargo can be released and then collected and distributed by a team on the ground. (Air drops provide lifeline in Syria's Deir Ezzor: a measure of last resort, WFP, 22 August 2016) [emphasis added]

It has been also been argued that airdrops need "government authorization", which Damascus hasn't given for many areas. If no such authorization is required for destructive bombing, why is authorization required for "food bombing" (Syria air drops of humanitarian aid still hampered by obstacles, CBC News, 3 June 2016)

The situation can be usefully summarized by the resylts of web searches on 24 September 2016: trucks aleppo (784,000); airdrops aleppo (62,200), "air drops" aleppo (62,200); "General Assembly" aleppo (744,000); "General Assembly" aleppo trucks (534,000); "General Assembly" aleppo airdrops (22,000). The latter search obviously makes no distinction between airdrops of weapons and those of humanitarian aid -- and no searches have been restricted to 2016.

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