Goal cannot afford to have aid suspended

It would be a major setback for Goal, one of Ireland’s leading charities, and also for the tens of thousands of people relying on it for support, if its funding were to be hit by news of a US probe into key aspects of the organisation’s work in Syria, the biggest programme in the charity’s history.

Outrageously, civilians and hospitals are now being bombed and shelled there by opposing sides in this brutal war waged against its own people by Assad’s ruthless government, a regime that will stop at nothing in its desperate bid to cling to power.

To date, the internecine war has led to an internal displacement of 7.6m people in Syria, leaving over 12m more in dire need of humanitarian assistance. More than a quarter of a million people have been killed in the fighting and over 4m have fled to neighbouring countries as refugees.

The investigation now under way has already forced Goal to suspend its procurement of food and other items such as blankets in Turkey for the Syrian aid programme. But Barry Andrews, the organisation’s chief executive, has insisted that “Goal is not under investigation”, adding “it is not a suspension of funding. It is a suspension of procurement only.”

However, given Goal’s controversial history, the burning question in the public mind is what has been going on in the supply chain to cause the American government, its biggest donor through USAID (US Agency for International Development) to put elements of the Syrian aid programme under the microscope? So important is the American agency’s support that in 2014 it gave the charity over €44m in grant aid, over one third of its total income.

According to Mr Andrews, a former Fianna Fáil TD and minister , the probe is much wider than Goal. Involving what he described as “an awful lot of organisations and suppliers, and Goal is one of them”, he went on to explain that the charity’s current focus is on delivering food and non-food items which includes supporting bakeries to increase the availability of affordable bread, repairing houses, rehabilitating water networks to provide safe water, and supporting livelihoods. Goal also operates cash/voucher mechanisms to support local markets. Obviously, no organisation that is totally dependent on voluntarily funding can afford to have any question of suspicion hanging over it.

The sooner the murky situation surrounding Goal’s procurement of goods in Turkey and whatever happens on the supply chain to Syria is not only clarified but stamped out completely, the better. That is especially true of the besieged civilians in the northern city of Aleppo where hundreds of people have died during the past week from air strikes on rebel-held areas. Among those killed were 18 children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Under siege and constantly bombarded, the population is desperately in need of food, shelter, and clean water, precisely the sort of thing Goal supplies. Meanwhile, atrocities were committed this week against patients, doctors, and nurses in the seventh hospital targeted by government air strikes. That contravenes all the rules of war and represents a heinous crime against humanity.


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