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Syria: Surge required in humanitarian response to needs

13-05-2013 News Release 13/88

Geneva (ICRC) – More than two years after the onset of the crisis, the conflict and its fallout in adjacent countries have developed into a major humanitarian catastrophe. With no political solution in sight and an ever-widening gap between the needs of Syrians and the humanitarian response on the ground, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) must significantly increase its assistance to the civilian population severely affected by the violence.

The ICRC is appealing to its donors for 62.3 million Swiss francs (approximately 65.2 million US dollars, or 50.5 million euros) in additional funding to step up its response until the end of the year for vulnerable people suffering the effects of the armed conflict within Syria and its neighbouring countries. The additional funds will bring the ICRC's total budget for Syria in 2013 to 101.3 million Swiss francs (around 82 million euros) and make the organization's operation in the country its largest in the world in budgetary terms.

 

"So far, millions of civilians in Syria and abroad have received help. In recent months, we have had better access to some of the areas worst affected in the country," said Robert Mardini, the ICRC's head of operations for the Near and Middle East, speaking at a press conference in Geneva. "However, the overall humanitarian response to the growing needs of millions of Syrians is still insufficient, hampered by security constraints and undermined by excessive bureaucratic and military controls. Our plan to step up our response is modest if we look at the needs, yet ambitious if we look at the reality we are facing on the ground."

"Many people are still struggling just to make it through the day, mainly because of the intensification of the fighting and a severely weakened economy. Despite our repeated calls for the parties to the conflict to respect the basic rules of war, the reality on the ground does not show any improvement. Hundreds of civilians are still killed or wounded every day. Thousands remain detained or missing. Attacks on medical facilities and personnel continue," added Mr Mardini. "Entire families are constantly on the move, seeking refuge in safer places. Four million people have so far been displaced within Syria, and a further 1.2 million have had to cross borders into neighbouring countries – and this trend persists. People who have remained in some cities or villages have almost nothing left, and live in constant fear and anguish."

Around one quarter of all working Syrians have lost their jobs since the beginning of the conflict. Agricultural output is in freefall, as thousands of farmers are unable to safely attend to their land or obtain the agricultural inputs they need. Inflation is rampant. A recent ICRC market survey indicates that prices for a standardized basket of food have risen by over 50 per cent since March 2011. In besieged areas and conflict zones, in particular, high demand and low supplies have driven up prices of basic necessities such as bread by as much as 1,000 per cent. More generally, the prices of food, fuel and medicine have skyrocketed and the purchasing power of ordinary citizens has been severely weakened, leaving a growing segment of the general population economically insecure.

"Today, millions are living in despair. Our priority is to improve living conditions and restore essential public services such as the supply of potable water and the collection and disposal of garbage," said Mr Mardini. "Together with Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers, we will provide monthly food parcels for 450,000 people, most of them displaced, and household essentials for up to 112,500 people. In addition, we will make sure that potable water continues to be provided for more than 12.5 million people across the country. We will also increase our support to health infrastructure and, through training, boost the skills of health workers treating the war-wounded."

"In the past few months, we have seen that our dialogue with both the authorities and the opposition has paid off. We have managed, together with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, to reach conflict-stricken areas such as Idlib, Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Deir Ezzor and Rural Damascus, where our personnel have been able to spend up to a week sometimes," added the ICRC official. "Unrestricted access and more frequent humanitarian pauses are key to the expansion of our humanitarian operations."

The conflict has also taken its toll on neighbouring countries, which are striving to cope with an influx of thousands of people every day fleeing heavy fighting in Syria. ''Our aid effort does not stop at the border – we are also helping Syrians who have sought refuge in other countries, such as Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. But there our role consists in reinforcing the humanitarian assistance already being provided," said Mr Mardini. In Lebanon, the ICRC will help the Lebanese Red Cross emergency medical services to boost their operations for wounded people arriving from Syria, and it will cover treatment costs for more patients. In Jordan, the ICRC will make available surgical and other medical supplies for the treatment of weapon-wounded patients to border health posts and some hospitals. In both countries, the ICRC will provide emergency relief for refugees as they arrive.

In 2012, the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent distributed food to 1.5 million people, water to 14 million people and other essential items (hygiene items, kitchen sets, blankets, and mattresses) to another half a million people, in addition to providing medical supplies for the treatment of thousands of sick or wounded people inside Syria. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the ICRC's main partner in the country, has also been providing emergency health-care and first-aid services for the wounded and the sick. "Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers, 19 of whom have lost their lives in the line of duty since the beginning of the conflict, remain extremely motivated," said Mr Mardini. "They continue to put their lives at risk every day to save the lives of others and bring relief to those in need."

 

For further information, please contact:
Dibeh Fakhr, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 37 23 or +41 79 447 37 26
Rima Kamal, ICRC Damascus, tel: +963 930 33 67 18 or +963 11 331 0476
Samar El Kadi, ICRC Beirut, tel: +961 70 153 928
Hala Shamlawi, ICRC Amman, tel: +962 777 398 794