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Syria assisting with Middle East refugees

25 August 2006

Kiwi in Syria assisting with Middle East refugees

Former New Zealand Red Cross National President Craig Strathern has been deployed to Syria to assist with refugees from the recent Middle East conflict.

Mr Strathern, now a full-time delegate with the International Committee of the Red Cross, is temporarily based in Damascus, Syria to assist the Syrian Red Crescent to cope with an influx of refugees from nearby Lebanon.

The Red Cross estimates that up to 160,000 refugees fled to Syria during the conflict in Israel and Lebanon, though this number is rapidly reducing following the announcement of a cease-fire.

“The Syrian Red Crescent and its International Red Cross and Red Crescent partners have been working on the basis that we will need to assist some 50,000 of the most vulnerable refugees in the coming weeks and months, but this number will likely reduce to around 15,000-20,000.

“Those who have homes to return to are going home, while those less fortunate will likely stay and will need further assistance.”

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement continues to assist the many hundreds of thousands affected by the conflict across the region, regardless of race or religion, providing emergency aid such as food parcels, hygiene kits, fuel for hospital generators and ambulances, and engineering support to restore water supplies. Other items such as cooking utensils, blankets, mattresses and tents have also been shipped to the region.

Mr Strathern says the Syrian Red Crescent has worked tirelessly since the conflict, but many of their efforts have been behind the scenes.

“Since the onset of the crisis, nine hundred volunteers have worked day and night manning border posts to deliver much needed assistance to arriving refugees (and latterly providing food and water to returnees), as well as meeting the most urgent needs of those housed in collective centres and those accommodated among host families.”

Another New Zealander, Red Cross logistics delegate, Dean Manderson, is working in Lebanon. Dean is responsible for ensuring essential aid convoys are able to reach people affected or displaced by the conflict.

New Zealand Red Cross has donated an initial $100,000 to the international Red Cross Movement, and launched a special appeal in New Zealand.

Donations to the Middle East appeal can be made via the New Zealand Red Cross website – www.redcross.org.nz – or by phoning 0900 31 100. A $20 donation will automatically be added to the individuals phone account.

ENDS

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