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Syria: Humanitarian aid, a lifeline for displaced people

05-04-2013 Operational Update

The displacement of millions of people across Syria has resulted in complete dependency on humanitarian assistance in some parts of the country. Crossing front lines and finding ways to reach people in need is becoming more urgent than ever before.

"The absence of humanitarian assistance could have catastrophic consequences for some hundreds of thousands of people across Syria," said Jeroen Carrin, in charge of the ICRC’s relief activities in the country. "An increasing number of displaced people now have neither income nor savings, and are completely dependent on the generosity of fellow Syrians and of the international community."

Obtaining exact figures of the number of people displaced inside Syria remains difficult, as many live in areas that are hard to reach while others do not register as displaced. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent estimates, however, that the number now exceeds 3.6 million.

Owing to an ever-expanding circle of violence, many tens of thousands of people have been uprooted not just once but multiple times as fighting has caught up with them. Once displaced, people often take refuge in public facilities such as schools, sports stadiums, cultural centres, mosques and churches. Some people take refuge temporarily in building shells or run-down houses, often in very miserable conditions. "I have seen up to 21 people, including children, crammed into a two-room apartment. There is barely room for everyone to lie down and sleep at the same time, let alone have any privacy," said Mr Carrin, describing the situation of three displaced families in Lattakia.

Although people are being displaced throughout the country, the scale of displacement is greater in northern and central governorates such as Idlib, Aleppo, Deir Ezzor, Raqqa, Homs, Hama and Rural Damascus than in southern governorates. According to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, some 35,000 people recently fled Raqqa for Deir Ezzor on one single day because of heavy fighting in the city.

ICRC staff who made visits during March of several days each to Deir Ezzor, Idlib and Aleppo, in areas controlled by both parties to the conflict, also spoke of very difficult living conditions and huge humanitarian needs. "With each visit to those places, we witnessed more and more how destitute people were and how they totally relied on humanitarian assistance," said Marianne Gasser, head of the ICRC delegation in Syria.

Crossing front lines is increasingly becoming an absolute necessity to reach people in need, especially in areas sealed-off for months. "We have crossed the lines repeatedly over the past couple of weeks and we will continue to do so. We brought aid to people who have been completely cut off for as long as four months, in Deir Ezzor for example, where we were last week. We were able to go there because of the dialogue we have with the parties to the conflict. We also had to request 'humanitarian pauses' in some cases. This kind of operation necessarily involves taking risks, but how else can you bring aid to the people who need it in a conflict zone?," asked Ms Gasser.

During the month of March, the ICRC stepped up its activities across the country. It visited eight governorates and provided, in cooperation with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, aid to:

  • over 155,000 people in Aleppo, Rural Damascus, Raqqa, Hama, Idleb, Damascus, Lattakia, Homs and Deir Ezzor who received food parcels;
  • more than 62,000 people in Aleppo, Damascus, Raqqa, Hama, Rural Damascus, Deir Ezzor, Lattakia, Idleb and Homs to whom mattresses and blankets were distributed;
  • some 28,000 people in Deir Ezzor, Lattakia and Hama who received kitchen sets (cooking pots, plates, cups and cutlery);
  • close to 70,000 people in Raqqa, Idleb, Deir Ezzor, Lattakia, Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Hama and Rural Damascus with hygiene items (shampoo, soap, washing detergent, female hygiene items, etc.).

Also last month, in cooperation with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, ICRC water engineers:

  • provided local water boards in Damascus, Aleppo and Hama with technical expertise, equipment and supplies, including four generators and 10,000 litres of a water-treatment product;
  • distributed 15,000 10-litre bottles of drinking water in Aleppo and Deir Ezzor;
  • delivered water by truck to close to 72,000 people in Rural Damascus and Homs;
  • continued to upgrade water, housing and sanitary facilities at more than 100 public sites housing almost 25,000 displaced people in Aleppo, Deir Ezzor, Quneitra, Damascus and Rural Damascus, and completed work at 52 sites in al-Hassakeh housing nearly 6,000 displaced people.

In March, ICRC health-care personnel:

  • visited Al Za'em, Al-Birr and Al-Waleed hospitals in Homs, where they delivered medical supplies for the surgical treatment of 100 wounded patients, intravenous fluids for 150 patients, wound-dressing materials, orthopaedic appliances and other items;
  • delivered surgical and other medical supplies to health-care facilities in Idlib and Sarmin to help treat 150 wounded patients. Medicines for the treatment of chronic diseases were also donated;
  • assessed the health situation in Aleppo governorate by visiting treatment facilities both in government- and opposition-controlled areas. Enough supplies to administer first aid to 50 wounded patients and to perform surgery on 100 wounded patients were donated to both sides, as were intravenous fluids for 500 patients and medicines for the treatment of chronic diseases.

For further information, please contact:
Rima Kamal, ICRC Damascus, tel: +963 930 33 67 18 or +963 11 331 0476
Dibeh Fakhr, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 37 23 or +41 79 447 37 26


Photos

Displaced children from Deir Ezzor, Syria, in a school serving as a temporary home for them and their families. 

Al-Hassakeh, Syria.
Displaced children from Deir Ezzor in a school serving as a temporary home for them and their families.
© ICRC

A girl and her young brother stand next to the family tent in a sports stadium serving as a centre for displaced persons in Lattakia, Syria. 

Lattakia, Syria.
A girl and her young brother stand next to the family tent in a sports stadium serving as a centre for displaced persons.
© ICRC / R. Kamal

Staff of the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent wait for fighting to stop so that they can deliver emergency aid to Al-Hamidieh. 

Deir Ezzor, Syria.
Staff of the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent wait for a pre-arranged pause in the fighting to take effect, so that they can deliver emergency aid to Al-Hamidieh.
© ICRC / L. Khalil

ICRC and Syrian Arab Red Crescent staff distribute food parcels in Hama, Syria. 

Hama, Syria.
ICRC and Syrian Arab Red Crescent staff distribute food parcels.
© ICRC / H. Akooly

ICRC water engineers assess the condition of water pumps and motors at the Al-Basil water treatment plant, Syria. 

Deir Ezzor, Syria.
ICRC water engineers assess the condition of water pumps and motors at the Al-Basil water treatment plant.
© ICRC / L. Khalil