A girl, who was injured by what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, stands at the entrance of her house in the Douma neighborhood of Damascus, Syria, November 22, 2015.Bassam Khabieh / Reuters

Article initially published in Foreign Affairs on February 1, 2016 and written by Annie Sparrow.

Conducting humanitarian operations in war zones is inevitably challenging. Delivery of effective aid demands adherence to the four key humanitarian principles laid out by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in 1965. The first two, humanity (alleviating suffering) and impartiality (prioritizing those in greatest need), are ethical principles that make the difference between merely doling out charity and providing humanitarian relief. The second two, neutrality (not taking sides) and independence (from the government), are pragmatic principles for operating in conflict settings.

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