Dr. Anas Al Kassem of the Canadian Relief for Syria holds a news conference to express regrets with the Canadian government's reversal on a decision to send medical aid to Syria via his group, in Ottawa on Friday, August 17, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
OTTAWA - Badly needed medical supplies may not make it into Syria now that $2 million in funding has been yanked by the federal government, say members of the group to which the money was supposed to go.
Earlier this week, just days after travelling to Jordan to announce the funding, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird abruptly cancelled plans to provide money for medical supplies to the group known as Canadian Relief for Syria.
The government decided to reversed course, Baird said, because of concerns that the money would be put towards building warehouses or infrastructure.
Members of the group said Friday that was never their intention, but now say that's no longer their main concern.
"We want the money — the medical supplies that were going to be sent — to enter Syria, to be used inside Syria," said Dr. Anas Al Kassem, a member of the group and a surgeon who has worked in Syria as recently as last week.
"Whether CRS is going to take it or any other organization, that's not the issue."
Al Kassem said the $2 million is accounted for item by item in their proposals and it is all for medical supplies and equipment.
"I'm not sure there's misinterpretation, but there's nothing to say we're going to build or we're going to purchase warehouses," he said.
"What we're asking the government is to ensure the money is going to get into Syria, not to the neighbouring countries or the refugees."
Al Kassem said there are people inside the conflict-torn country who urgently need Canada's help.
The Toronto-based trauma surgeon recalled a particularly horrific day just last week when he was forced to perform several amputations without the proper anesthesia.
"One day I did not have any morphine," he said.
"I did not have any narcotics so we had to do amputations with tablets only. It's unbelievable."