Syria: aid reaches beleaguered population in Homs and Harasta
25-10-2012 Operational Update No 14/2012
Hundreds of thousands of people affected by intense fighting have been receiving aid distributed by the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. In addition, the ICRC has succeeded in delivering medical supplies in some of the areas hardest hit by violence.
ICRC staff returned to Homs this week to deliver aid, in particular to hospitals and other health-care facilities. "While this is certainly a positive development, much more remains to be done," said Marianne Gasser, the head of the ICRC delegation in Syria. "We need to proceed with caution, however, as it is very risky for everyone, not least for our personnel and for Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers working in the most dangerous areas." Other field visits were carried out to several parts of Rural Damascus, including Harasta, and in Sweida in the south, where many displaced people have taken refuge.
The ICRC donated enough medical supplies to treat between 50 and 100 injured patients to al-Birr private hospital in Homs. It also donated anaesthetic drugs, wound-dressing materials and intravenous fluids to al-Amin private hospital. In addition, the ICRC carried out an assessment of a health-care facility in Bab Amr, currently being renovated by the Ministry of Health, with a view to possible future assistance.
On 21 October, a Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteer died after being caught in the fighting on his way to work in Harasta, Rural Damascus. The following day, another two volunteers were injured in separate incidents while on duty, also in Harasta. Under international humanitarian law, parties to an armed conflict must distinguish at all times between civilians and those involved in fighting.
Together with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the ICRC assessed needs in Jwalek, some 10 kilometres north west of Homs city. Jwalek has been playing host to hundreds of people who have fled armed confrontations in different parts of Homs in recent weeks. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent provided immediate assistance for around 400 people in desperate need of food and other essentials, including blankets and mattresses. It also provided schooling material for the children. "In Jwalek, as in many other places in the country, the situation of displaced people is desperate," said Ms Gasser. "A young displaced woman there could not hold back her tears as she told me that she had to take her newborn child and flee her home. She had already lost touch with the father before fleeing, and he has still not seen his daughter. She was very sad that she and her family would not be able to return home in time for the Eid al-Adha festivities."
The ICRC remains extremely concerned about the humanitarian situation in the country. Armed confrontations have had a particularly severe effect on the population of Homs, Aleppo, Idlib, Hama, Deir Ez-Zor, Damascus and Rural Damascus. The ICRC continues to enhance its field presence together with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, especially in the areas hardest hit by violence. Following the visit last month of its president, Peter Maurer, the ICRC has persevered in its humanitarian dialogue with the Syrian authorities, which it hopes will enable it to expand its support for medical services and to visit all persons detained in the country.
Since the beginning of the year, the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent have provided food for over a million people and essential household items for a quarter million people. They have also helped provide water for over a million people in the governorates of Damascus, Rural Damascus and Homs. For over a year and a half, Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers have been working around the clock in violence-stricken areas, often risking their lives to provide first aid, transfer the injured and otherwise help save lives. "Humanitarian needs have not stopped growing," said Ms Gasser. "While some progress has been achieved, more is needed to meet the most urgent needs on the ground."
ICRC and Syrian Arab Red Crescent activities during the month of October
Food and other essentials
- The two organizations have distributed enough food parcels to cover the needs of almost 150,000 people for a month in the governorates of Rural Damascus, Idlib, Homs, Hama, Aleppo, Sweida, Tartous, Raqqa, Deir Ez-Zor Lattakia and in Damascus, and thousands of household essentials, such as mattresses, mats, towels, hygiene items and candles.
- Jointly with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the ICRC has distributed over 40,000 blankets, in particular to displaced people sheltering in public buildings.
Water, sanitation and shelter
- The ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent took urgent action to repair and improve shelter and water and sanitation facilities for over 20,000 displaced people living in more than 35 schools and other public buildings in Rural Damascus, Homs, Aleppo and Raqqa governorates.
- In the city of Homs, when a 2,000-kilovolt-ampere backup generator recently supplied by the ICRC was damaged by shrapnel and broke down, ICRC water engineers took immediate action to repair it. They succeeded in restoring the Ain al-Tanour water pumping station to working order, thereby ensuring that over a million people in the city would continue to be supplied with clean water.
- In Aleppo city, the ICRC helped the local water board repair several pipelines in the city's network that had been seriously damaged by the fighting. The pipelines supply tens of thousands of people with water.
- The ICRC maintained its support for a Syrian Arab Red Crescent operation to deliver drinking water by truck to more than 80,000 displaced people who have taken refuge in schools or other public buildings or with host communities in the governorates of Rural Damascus, Deir Ez-Zor and Homs.
- ICRC medical delegates and water engineers recently visited Harasta national hospital, where they assessed the facility's needs and donated anaesthetic drugs, sutures and wound-dressing materials.
- In Homs, the ICRC donated drugs and medical supplies to al-Birr private Hospital and al-Amin private hospital, and crutches and wheelchairs to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.
For further information, please contact:
Rabab Al-Rifaï, ICRC Damascus, tel: +963 993 700 847 or +963 11 331 0476
Alexis Heeb, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 37 72 or +41 79 218 76 10