Syria: thousands of displaced in Houla need urgent help

01-06-2012 Operational Update

Many parts of Syria are very tense. The tragic events in Houla plain have left dozens of people dead or wounded and have prompted thousands to flee the area. The ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent have been on the spot responding to needs.

Houla plain is an area inside Homs governorate in which several villages are clustered together. One of the villages is Taldaw, where many civilians were killed on the night of 25-26 May. Fearing for their lives, thousands fled the village while the fighting raged and took refuge in Burj al-Qa'i, a village some five kilometres east of Taldaw, and in other nearby villages.

"People left everything behind as they ran for their lives," said Marianne Gasser, the head of the ICRC delegation in Syria. "Most of the displaced are women and children."

Burj al-Qa'i is a village in Houla plain with barely 1,000 residents. Overnight, it found itself hosting 5,000 people who had fled Taldaw in search of safety. "Many of those who took refuge in Burj al-Qa'i ended up in schools and other public buildings, others with host families," said Ms Gasser. "There was not enough food, water and medicine for everyone, which put a great deal of pressure on the small village."

Both the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent went to Houla plain this week. They provided food, water, mattresses, baby milk, medicines and other items for the displaced in Burj al-Qa'i. In addition, they installed and filled water tanks in schools and other places where displaced people are taking shelter. Some of the people who did not manage to go to Burj al-Qa'i or elsewhere stayed behind because they were injured. A team of Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers and six doctors headed to Taldaw immediately after the events, treated dozens of people on the spot and transferred several to a hospital in Homs city.

"What happened in Houla is tragic. The ICRC is shocked by the high number of casualties," said Ms Gasser. "When fighting erupts, parties must distinguish at all times between civilians and those directly participating in the hostilities. Civilians must be spared as far as possible the effects of the fighting."

The ICRC remains extremely concerned about the humanitarian situation in other parts of Syria. This week in Hama governorate, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent treated dozens of people injured in the violence. In early May, the ICRC visited people held in Aleppo Central Prison. The visit was conducted in accordance with the organization's standard working procedures. Both the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent are closely monitoring the situation elsewhere in order to respond to needs as they arise.

The ICRC is calling upon the parties to ensure that civilians are allowed to move to safer areas should they fear for their safety, and that the injured have access to any medical care they may need without delay. It is also calling on all parties involved in the violence to continue to facilitate its safe and unimpeded access to affected areas.

Food and other essentials

Over the past month, in order to help people affected by the unrest to cope with daily needs, in cooperation with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the ICRC:

  • supplied 9,000 food parcels to the governorate of Homs, in the area of al-Qusayr and elsewhere, for distribution to nearly 45,000 needy people, and 3,000 food parcels to the governorate of Hama, in the area of al-Latmaneh and elsewhere, for some 15,000 people, some of whom are displaced;
  • distributed around 3,000 food parcels to over 14,500 people in Idlib and Rural Damascus;
  • provided sleeping mats, mattresses, candles, hygiene articles and other items, depending on need.

Responding to medical needs

Over the past month, the ICRC:

  • donated four fully equipped mobile health units containing supplies for first aid, triage, patient stabilization, minor surgery, etc. to Syrian Arab Red Crescent branches in Homs, Hama, Idlib and Rural Damascus;
  • set up a medical contingency stock in Damascus for the treatment of 500 wounded patients to boost the ability of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to respond to emergencies;
  • delivered enough medical supplies to treat 100 injured patients to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent sub-branch in Douma for use in support of Hamdan Hospital;
  • continued to assess medical needs in the governorates of Hama, Homs, Aleppo, Idlib and rural Damascus.

Improving water supply and sanitary conditions

ICRC water engineers:

  • delivered supplies to al-Badia Commission, the local authority in charge of water projects in nine governorates affected by the drought (zones IV and V), to ensure that enough water reaches remote areas for people and their livestock;
  • are working with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to upgrade water storage, toilets and showers in 10 public buildings in Homs, including schools, to improve housing, water and sanitary conditions for at least 2,000 displaced people;
  • assessed needs in an additional five public buildings hosting some 1,000 displaced people in Homs.


For further information, please contact:
Rabab Al-Rifaï, ICRC Damascus, tel: +963 993 700 847 or +963 11 331 0476
Hicham Hassan, ICRC Geneva: tel: +41 22 730 25 41 or +41 79 536 92 57