Syria: A glimpse of human suffering in Aleppo

Interview with the head of the ICRC's delegation in Syria, Marianne Gasser, about the humanitarian situation in Aleppo where she went last week to gain fresh insight into the situation.

 The frequent fighting and constant insecurity in Aleppo have affected all aspects of daily life in the city, as is the case in many other conflict-affected areas of Syria. There are tens of thousands of displaced and vulnerable people in the governorate with no income and no savings who depend on assistance to survive.

Together with the ICRC Aleppo team and SARC Aleppo branch, she visited different areas of the city and spoke with people suffering the effects of the ongoing violence. Constructive meetings with local authorities were also held to facilitate and ensure the safe delivery of humanitarian aid.

The humanitarian work being done by SARC and ICRC teams is vital, but only a fraction of what is needed. On the 3rd March SARC volunteers helped 22 people, 11 of them in wheelchairs, cross the front line from eastern Aleppo to a hospital in the western side for specific medical treatment not available elsewhere. This was part of SARC's regular cross line humanitarian services that are undertaken in agreement with all parties and authorities.

Since the summer of 2014, the ICRC -- through SARC Aleppo branch -- has been supporting a local charity to run two collective kitchens that provide daily meals to some 17,000 impoverished and vulnerable people, both displaced and resident, in eastern and western Aleppo. The ICRC is also supporting three other collective kitchens with bulk food.

Today, in Aleppo city, there is often as little as one hour of electricity per day. Keeping vital water supplies running and ensuring electricity for hospital services is vital. To this end, the ICRC has provided generators for use in different locations, including hospitals. Last Thursday, 5th March, in an emergency action following the breakdown of a hospital generator in the eastern part of the city, the ICRC was able to replace it with another one through the efforts of SARC volunteers and hospital engineers.

SARC distributes aid at three different locations in Aleppo. A visit was made to one of them on the 3rd March where some 12,000 families are registered to receive food parcels.

Another visit during a busy week was to Al Tishreen Collective Centre, a complex of 34 partly constructed buildings, five of them mere skeleton structures. Some 6,700 displaced persons from different areas, including rural Aleppo, are sheltering there in dire conditions, some of them for more than a year. The ICRC is implementing several projects at the Centre to improve and rehabilitate sanitation facilities, provide water storage and tap stands, and to isolate the outside of the skeleton structures from the weather, as well as making staircases safe with steel handrails inside.

The ICRC team based in Aleppo, SARC staff and volunteers, and volunteers from other local organisations and charities are doing tremendous work on the ground on a daily basis. Their dedication and commitment to helping everyone in need – no matter where they are from – has to be commended and praised.