Aleppo - 02-12-16
My KM column usually involves issues directly relevant to Maidstone & The Weald but every now and then an international tragedy develops that demands overriding attention.
The situation in Eastern Aleppo is dire. The last hospital was put out of action on 19th November, the food stocks are set to run out in the next fortnight and 275,000 people are in real and immediate danger of starvation and / or extermination. That's about the same population of the entire boroughs of Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells combined, and of those at risk, nearly 100,000 are children.
In May this year our government said "preparations for airdrops will now take place and go forward rapidly because there isn't a moment to lose". Six months later we are no further forward.
Following devastatingly indiscriminate bombing campaigns the combined forces of Assad and Putin are now intent upon wiping out all Aleppo's survivors. They are refusing all attempts to allow access to UN relief agencies whilst dropping unguided barrel bombs full of chlorine gas onto the remaining civilian populations.
We have all the will and the resources to help, but we are thwarted from gaining ground based access to the besieged civilians without putting our servicemen and aid workers at very significant risk.
The alternative of 'airdropping' our aid requires pilots to maintain a significant altitude for safety, but that makes pinpoint targeting of drop sites exceptionally difficult. The strong likelihood of our aid then falling into the hands of the enemy has, until now, been considered a worse outcome, but that argument no longer stacks up.
Aleppo's remaining survivors are in the last chance saloon and we must act. I have therefore written to the Prime Minister, together with colleagues from across the house, asking her to urgently authorise the airdropping of aid. It is no longer an option of last resort, it is our only option.
Helen's weekly column is published every Friday in the Kent Messenger. The content shown here may differ slightly from the press version.