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Humanitarian workers under attack in Syria, says British Red Cross

17 August 2012

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Humanitarian workers have come under fire while providing life-saving care in Syria, says the British Red Cross.

Since hostilities began, five Syrian Arab Red Crescent staff and volunteers have been killed, others have been shot at, and ambulances have been fired upon or in some cases stolen. As a consequence, paramedic volunteers are going into some areas on foot instead of in ambulances, which might become a target. 

Katy Attfield, Head of Disaster Management for the British Red Cross, said:
“The Syrian Arab Red Crescent and ICRC are among the only agencies able to work across frontlines in Syria. These staff and volunteers are risking their lives daily to bring aid into areas where people often lack even the most basic essentials – water, food, and medical help. When aid workers are targeted, it becomes impossible for the ICRC and Red Crescent to continue these activities, leaving large numbers of sick and wounded without treatment.

“On World Humanitarian Day we recognise the sacrifices that humanitarian workers make and remind people not only of this vital work, but why it is necessary. The reports from Syria are increasingly focussed on conflict and politics – meanwhile the humanitarian situation for ordinary Syrians has steadily worsened with over 2 million people now affected.”

Katy Attfield continues:
“There are areas where children have not been able to go to school in over a year, where fighting stops people living their normal lives – going to work, tending their crops or even basic things like getting to a doctor – people have been coping with these extreme circumstances for many months, with the constant backdrop of violence. The humanitarian needs are enormous, and even when the conflict ceases, people will need support to get back on their feet.”
Despite the increasing hostilities, in the last few weeks the ICRC and Red Crescent have delivered 25,000 food parcels - enough to feed 125,000 people for a month. In Homs and Damascus, the ICRC have installed generators to boost the capacity of the local pumping stations, which supply most of the drinking water for the population, which in Homs has risen to 800,000 including those fleeing violence.  Four new mobile health clinics provide basic health care in Damascus.

Some of the worst fighting is now in Aleppo, and aid workers are at daily risk in the city.  Some basics such as medical supplies, food, water and mattresses have been given to people taking refuge in school buildings.  However, providing first aid and medical services is very difficult, which has led to some paramedic volunteers going into areas of the city on foot instead of in ambulances, to avoid being targeted by gunfire.

The ICRC and Syrian Arab Red Crescent have been providing aid and medical help since the conflict began.

Despite the challenges, over the past three weeks the ICRC together with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent have:
•         provided more than 125,000 mainly displaced people in and around Damascus city, Aleppo, Homs, and other areas with over 25,000 food parcels
•         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.
•         delivered enough supplies to treat between up to 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

The British Red Cross launched their Syria Crisis Appeal in March this year.  This money has so far helped to provide:
•         8 fully-equipped ambulances
•         3,000 food parcels
•         3,144 hygiene kits
•         8,400 blankets
•         2,920 kitchen sets. 
•         150 volunteer overalls for Syrian Arab Red Crescent staff and volunteers
•         Financial support and training for volunteers and health staff

Since the conflict began, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent has lost five staff and volunteers:
• On 24 April 2012, a first-aid responder was shot and killed in the city of Douma.
• On 25 January 2012, Abdulrazzak Jbeiro, the secretary-general of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and president of its Idlib branch, was killed.
• In September 2011, a volunteer died when a Red Crescent ambulance was struck by bullets.
• On June 24, 2012 a volunteer for the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, Bashar al-Youssef, was shot and killed in Deir Ezzor, in eastern Syria.
• On July 9 Syrian Arab Red Crescent staff member, Khaled Khaffaji, was shot in Deir Ezzor, eastern Syria, and died the next day. Mr Khaffaji was shot while on duty in an ambulance clearly marked with the Red Crescent emblem.

To donate to the Syria Crisis Appeal go to or call 0845 054 7206.