International aid must reach people in need through any means possible
I have just returned from a six-day visit to Syria, where I traveled to Aleppo with our team to see the devastation left by the earthquake firsthand. This was my fourth visit to Aleppo.
I saw in the past the cruelty that the conflict unleashed on civilians. But I was overwhelmed this time by the magnitude of destruction and loss that was inflicted on families during only 60 seconds in the early hours of February 6th.
The more than 10 years of conflict has brought different levels of destruction at different times to different communities. But during this natural disaster, homes on both sides of the frontline were reduced to piles of concrete. Grief and loss visited everyone, everywhere.
And it is this shared suffering that should allow politics to be put aside and allow international aid to reach people in need through any means possible. My fear is that if this cannot happen today, when will it happen? How much more do people have to suffer because of where they live?
We need all options on the table—cross border convoys and supply lines from within Syria— to scale up in the way that Syrians everywhere deserve – including the areas hardest hit by the earthquake – in Aleppo, Idlib, in Latakkia, and Jableh. People urgently need the basics—food, water, shelter, medical care—but also help over the longer term to pick up the pieces of what was destroyed both in the earthquake and years of conflict.
The difference our teams are making in areas we can reach is profound.
We have deployed teams to bring life-saving assistance to people in Aleppo, Latakia and Tartous. We have, together with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, reached more than 30,000 people with assistance like water, hygiene items, food, and mattresses. We have donated medicine and supplies to six hospitals and helped repair shelters hosting displaced families. We are sending further medical equipment and essential relief items to help thousands more families who lost their homes. I’m heartened to also see the work of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society taking place in the region.
In parallel to the much-needed relief efforts, for the past 12 years, the ICRC has worked to prevent the collapse of critical infrastructure so that communities maintain at least minimal access to essential services such as safe water and health care. This earthquake will again force us to rethink how to efficiently support what has been a resilient Syrian population. What is it, precisely, that communities need the most? How far do we go in rehabilitating essential infrastructure? How do we provide housing to hundreds of thousands of people?
We need the international community to help us meet these needs. Today we asked donors for an additional 30 million Swiss francs to help respond to this catastrophe. This would bring our total budget for Syria to 200 million Swiss francs, funds needed to meet the humanitarian needs across the country.
The ICRC stayed in Syria through more than a decade of conflict; we are committed to supporting the Syrian people across the country and will do our utmost to help affected communities recover from what is turning out to be wave after wave of debilitating crises for Syrian families.
For more information, please contact:
Fatima Sator, ICRC Geneva (English, French),
firstname.lastname@example.org, +41 79 848 49 08