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Syria: assistance reaches civilians in Aleppo and elsewhere

9 August 2012

Syria: more assistance reaches civilians in Aleppo and other areas

Thousands of civilians, especially in the governorates of Damascus and Aleppo, are struggling to stay safe. Despite facing increasing challenges over the past three weeks, the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent assisted over 125,000 people affected by violence in several parts of Syria.

"Though the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent are doing everything possible to assist civilians affected by the violence, it is also up to the parties to the conflict to take every feasible measure to spare the civilian population the effects of the fighting," said Marianne Gasser, the head of the ICRC delegation in Syria.

"As the situation began to worsen in Damascus, it became very difficult for our staff to move about in and around the city to bring aid to the civilian population," said Ms Gasser. "Needs have been growing very fast, so the ICRC has had to quickly adapt its way of working to be able to meet them in partnership with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent."

As fighting flared up in the governorate of Aleppo, in the north of Syria, thousands of people left their homes and began pouring into public buildings, now used as temporary shelters. Over 80 schools in several parts of the governorate are currently hosting civilians who have fled the fighting. "Aleppo is of particular concern to the ICRC, not only because of its distant geographical location, but because the Syrian Arab Red Crescent had to suspend most of its activities owing to extreme danger on the ground," said Ms Gasser. "Still, dozens of volunteers have continued to work under extremely difficult conditions to meet the growing needs of the civilian population."

To help the Red Crescent cope with the mounting need for humanitarian aid, the ICRC managed to deliver enough food and other essentials to Aleppo governorate today to cover the needs of at least 12,500 people.

Many health-care facilities are also finding it ever more challenging to treat the injured because their services have been disrupted by the violence, and medical items are scarce. The ICRC has sent enough medical supplies to treat between 250 and 1,000 casualties, depending on the seriousness of their injuries. Over the past two weeks, the ICRC arranged repeatedly for water and sanitation technicians to ensure that schools had enough clean water to cover the needs of the displaced people taking shelter in them and to preserve sanitary conditions despite frequent overcrowding.

Though humanitarian efforts over the past few weeks have focused on Damascus and Aleppo, needs in other parts of the country remain high. In Homs city, thousands of people have taken shelter in schoolhouses and other public buildings, some for several weeks already. The ICRC has delivered a one-month supply of food for over 20,000 people in the city. For several months, access to water has also been a serious concern for the majority of the people in Homs. To help the city cope with water shortages, the ICRC has installed a 1,000 kilowatt-amp generator to boost the capacity of the Ain Al-Tanour pumping stations, which supply 80 per cent of the drinking water for the city's combined resident and displaced population of 800,000. To help the Syrian Arab Red Crescent deal with the persisting humanitarian needs in Hama, Idlib, Lattakia, Raqqa and Hassakeh governorates, the ICRC has delivered a one-month supply of food for more than 43,000 civilians.

The ICRC currently has 50 staff members working in Syria. Together with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, ICRC staff have been assisting tens of thousands of people in all parts of the country who have so far been affected by the violence.

Over the past three weeks, in cooperation with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the ICRC has:

• delivered enough supplies to treat between 250 and 1,000 casualties to Aleppo, and wound-dressing and other materials to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent in Damascus;

• equipped the Red Crescent's four mobile health units, which have been providing primary health care and medicines in schools hosting displaced people in Damascus;

• provided more than 125,000 mainly displaced people in and around Damascus city and in Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Idlib, Lattakia, Hassakeh and Raqqa with over 25,000 food parcels, together with one-kilogram packs of dates and dried apricot to mark the holy month of Ramadan, to help them cope for one month;

• helped the Red Crescent's Aleppo branch improve access to safe drinking water in 10 schools hosting an estimated 2,000 people, and also helped improve access to safe drinking water and improve sanitary conditions in Damascus and Rural Damascus for over 68,000 people who recently fled the fighting and are staying in 27 schools and residential areas;

• continued to ensure that more than 300,000 people accommodated in over 100 schoolhouses in Homs have an ample supply of clean water;

• delivered nearly 10,000 mattresses to schoolhouses and other public buildings hosting displaced people in and around Damascus city and in Aleppo and Homs, and 2,000 sets of hygiene items to Aleppo.

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