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Humanitarian convoy attack

Display these words where young people can see them.


Humanitarian aid has been suspended.


The announcement was made by the UN on 20 September 2016 following an attack on a warehouse and aid convoy in Syria. Lorries were unloading basic supplies at the warehouse in the rural part of Aleppo. The food, equipment and medicines were intended for over 70,000 people affected by fierce fighting in the region.


Invite young people to explore the impact of aid suspension on different groups of people.


Split the group into three and assign one of the following roles to each group:

  • You are trapped with other members of your family in a damaged building which has been under shell-fire for weeks. You had heard that a delivery of basic aid supplies was possibly on its way.
  • You live in the region and have been volunteering with an aid organisation to bring water, food and medicines to those in need. You were not part of the convoy that was hit, but you know people who were. You were expecting to be working on future aid deliveries quite soon.
  • You left your home in Syria when the fighting started but have family and friends who are still in the region of Aleppo. You worry constantly about how they are surviving.

Ask each group to discuss their situation considering these two questions:

  • How do you feel when you hear the news that humanitarian aid has been suspended?
  • What are you going to do now?

As they explore these two responses, emotional and practical, it is likely that they will tend towards pessimistic. That’s natural and appropriate. But might there also be some less negative responses? People may feel despairing or frightened. But might they also feel determined or hopeful? Is there anything positive that these individuals might find in their situations?


Come together and discuss the responses. What common patterns and similarities are there? Is there anything that stands out as unexpected or surprising? Compare the feelings with the proposed actions. How difficult was it to think of what to do next?


Humanitarian organisations bring practical help, and hope, to people in crisis. Finish by adding words to extend the sentence above in ways that reflect the discussion and the element of hope. As examples:

  • Humanitarian aid has been suspended… but it will be back.
  • Humanitarian aid has been suspended… so we have to help each other.
  • Humanitarian aid has been suspended… but humanitarian acts go on.

A flagrant violation


Experts suggest that the attack on the warehouse and aid convoy in Syria seems to be a violation of international humanitarian law. That is, it may be a crime under the laws of war.


The sentences below explain why and describe the sign of protection that the law recognises. But the sentences have been jumbled. Invite young people working alone or in groups to put them in a logical order.

  • A visible sign of that protection, known as the emblem, is often displayed by neutral aid workers and their equipment.
  • Among those categories are humanitarian aid workers, their vehicles and buildings.
  • It is unlawful for certain categories of people and objects to be targeted in a conflict.
  • The emblem can be in the form of a red crescent, a red crystal or a red cross.

Final result should be:


It is unlawful for certain categories of people and objects to be targeted in a conflict. Among those categories are humanitarian aid workers, their vehicles and buildings. A visible sign of that protection, known as the emblem, is often displayed by neutral aid workers and their equipment. The emblem can be in the form of a red crescent, a red crystal or a red cross.


Read this version and discuss it. What would young people like to know more about?


Explain that humanitarian aid workers are protected from attack because they are neutral and don’t support either side in the conflict. They help anyone in need, regardless of the side they are on. The emblem is a sign of this neutrality.


Many people are unaware of the true meaning of the emblem and its importance. It is first and foremost a symbol of neutral protection in wartime. To be effective, it must be understood and completely trusted.

  • What is the significance of a neutral symbol? How does it help those in need?
  • Why is it so important that the emblems are understood and trusted?

For more on the emblem, try the performance in this assembly idea.


Help young people learn more about core humanitarian principles and how they can be applied in situations of armed conflict with our rules of war resource.

Supporting humanitarian staff and volunteers


The Aleppo director for the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, Omar Barakat, died following the attack on the convoy. So did around 20 civilians, as 18 lorries were destroyed.


54 staff and volunteers from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent have lost their lives whilst carrying out their duties since the conflict began.


What message would you like to send to colleagues, friends and family of Omar and those others who died trying to reduce the suffering of others? Write something that you might post on social media.

Safe passage


Humanitarian aid will resume when the agencies assess that it is safer for their staff and volunteers. One of the first rules of helping others is to reduce the chances of more people being hurt or put at risk to limit the impact of conflict. When providing aid in conflict zones this means negotiating safe passage with all the groups operating in the area.


Learn more about the logistics of delivering humanitarian relief and negotiating safe passage with our Humanitarian aid in action resource.


Credits

This resource was written by P J White of Alt62 and published in September 2016.

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