In addition to private organizations, the United Nations has stepped up its work in Syria. It appealed for $519 million to help Syrians inside the country, which it says would sustain its work through June. So far it has received just over 20 percent of the funds, or about $106 million, according to Jens Laerke, a Geneva-based spokesperson for OCHA. The United Nations has also appealed for an additional $1 billion to aid Syrian refugees in neighboring countries. But it has only received about 19 percent of the funds, or about $200 million.
There are some signs that the aid organizations are growing more effective. According to Mahmoud, one Western NGO is supporting 25 field hospitals in Syria with medical supplies. Two field hospitals receive all their supplies from this one NGO.
Field hospitals are, in general, better stocked with life-saving supplies than they were six months ago. But they remain ill-equipped to cope with the viciousness of the ongoing war: For instance, in many field hospitals, if 10 injured Syrians are brought in following an attack, there is not enough equipment to treat them all, Mahmoud said. A race to get the injured to a hospital in Turkey follows. But with the trip at times taking two to three hours, many patients die along the way.
The frequency of aid deliveries is still irregular. "Sometimes it is every week. Sometimes it is one time per month," Mahmoud said.
There are bureaucratic issues to bringing supplies into Turkey from abroad. Purchasing large quantities of certain medicines -- such as powerful sedatives necessary for operations -- can be problematic. Additional hold-ups, such as the temporary closure of the Bab al-Hawa border crossing after a car bombing on Feb. 11, slows the delivery of aid into the country.
"You can't describe it as an open border," Mahmoud said. "Because the Turkish government does not all the time allow the people work. Of course, they hide their eyes at times, but not all the time."
Mahmoud pointed out that there are clear benefits to relying on local Syrians for NGOs. Syrians know the situation and can move more easily in the country, and can be more attuned to the needs on the ground.
"As the volunteers are from the places in which they are working, they come from different backgrounds and have very good knowledge of their own communities," Stephanie Bunker, a U.N. spokesperson based in Amman, said in an e-mailed response to questions about the benefits of local implementing partners. "[O]f course, they speak the language as well."