Syria: aid continues to reach those in need despite challenges
29-01-2013 Operational Update
With no end in sight to the fighting, the humanitarian situation in Syria keeps deteriorating. The ICRC, together with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, continues to work to overcome the obstacles it faces in its efforts to bring much-needed assistance to people throughout the country.
The suffering of men, women and children has reached unprecedented levels across the country. As fighting escalates in different parts of Syria, gaining access to certain areas, such as Aleppo, Deir Ezzor and Idlib, is becoming increasingly challenging. Nevertheless, food parcels, hygiene items, mattresses and blankets continue to be delivered and distributed across the country in cooperation with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. In addition, efforts continue to meet water and sanitation needs throughout Syria.
"Responding to the needs in an efficient and timely manner remains a cornerstone of our operations," said Edwin Gilmore, who coordinates the ICRC's logistics in the country. "Road blockage, damaged infrastructure and heavy fighting are some of the challenges we have to work our way around to reach those in need. At times that means we have to find alternative routes or seize a brief window of opportunity when the fighting subsides."
The harsh weather conditions that swept across Syria at the beginning of January not only deepened the misery of displaced people but also added to the challenges facing relief convoys and to the time it took them to reach their destinations. "It took us nearly 10 hours to reach the city of Idlib, a journey that would normally take four hours," said Marianne Gasser, head of the ICRC's delegation in Syria, after returning from that city.
Nevertheless, since the beginning of January the ICRC has managed to bring aid to needy people in Damascus, Rural Damascus, Homs, Hama, Tartous, Lattakia, Aleppo, Idlib, al-Hassakeh, al-Raqqah and Deir Ezzor. ICRC staff have also managed to conduct field visits to a number of areas, including Rural Damascus, Homs, Hama and Sweida, where the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent have jointly assessed water and sanitary facilities and planned for future aid distributions.
"It is very important that we go out into the field and assess the situation with our own eyes," said Ms Gasser. "This is no easy task, but we are very determined and our staff are pushing the limits of the possible every day. Hearing people’s stories and seeing how they live helps us better understand the humanitarian needs on the ground and respond to them more efficiently. We always attempt to strike a balance between our concern for the safety of our staff and the need for us to be in the field ourselves. We are even negotiating on the front lines."
Since the beginning of the year, working in cooperation with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the ICRC has provided:
- food parcels for some 164,000 people in Damascus, Rural Damascus, Homs, Hama, Idlib, Aleppo and Lattakia;
- around 30,000 mattresses and blankets for 15,000 people in Damascus, Rural Damascus, Homs, Hama, Aleppo, Idlib and Lattakia;
- kitchen sets (cooking pots, plates, cups and cutlery) for 20,000 displaced people in Damascus and Rural Damascus;
- hygiene items (shampoo, soap, washing detergent, female hygiene items, etc.) for 50,000 displaced people in Damascus, Rural Damascus, Homs and Lattakia.
Also in January, the ICRC responded to medical needs by:
- donating surgical and other medical supplies to four hospitals in Damascus and Rural Damascus following assessments of the hospitals' needs and surgical capacity;
- donating surgical and other medical supplies to the Palestine Red Crescent, working in Damascus, for distribution in cooperation with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to hospitals in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp.
Together with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the ICRC also attended to water and sanitation needs by:
- delivering water by truck to 65,000 people in Tal Kurdi and al-Nabek in Rural Damascus;
- providing more than 10,000 bottles of drinking water to al-Hassakeh and Deir Ezzor, benefiting close to 60,000 people;
- delivering almost 380,000 litres of sodium hypochloride, a water-treatment product, to Homs, Hama, Damascus, Deir Ezzor and Tartous, to help the local water boards maintain supplies of potable water for 12,500,000 people;
- continuing to upgrade water works, housing and sanitary facilities in 99 centres accommodating close to 35,000 displaced people in Homs, Aleppo, Al-Sweida and Deir Ezzor.
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