29 October 2013
On its 150th anniversary, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is making an unprecedented call for all parties to the conflict in Syria to guarantee the safety of aid workers and ensure their unimpeded, immediate access to people in need across the country.
Since hostilities began, 22 Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers have been killed while on duty. Many others have been injured. Ambulances have been fired upon and stolen. In the midst of these events, aid workers have been trying to deliver vital aid and services to as many as 2.5 million people each month.
British Red Cross volunteers and staff gathered in London, Cardiff, Liverpool and Glasgow to express solidarity with their Syrian counterparts - holding aloft photographs of each of the 22 volunteers who lost their lives.
Enough is enough
“Today we are standing in solidarity with our friends and colleagues in the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to say enough is enough,” said Sir Nick Young, British Red Cross chief executive.
“Across Syria, volunteers are risking their lives to bring vital aid to people in desperate need. Intentional targeting of aid workers, who play no part in the conflict and who simply seek to help those most in need, is unacceptable. This must stop. The Movement is asking all parties to the conflict to respect humanitarian workers and allow them to work in safety.
The Syrian Arab Red Crescent has suffered a number of incidents in recent months, including:
• On 21 October, a Red Crescent volunteer was injured trying to bring aid to Aleppo prison.
• On 27 August, two volunteers were killed by a mortar which landed in front of the SARC Homs branch office.
• On 4 August, a first aid point in Tijara was hit by a mortar and two Red Crescent volunteers were hospitalised.
• On 28 July, nine Red Crescent volunteers, two staff and three citizens were injured in a mortar shelling at the distribution point in al-Qusayr.
• In May, the ambulance garage in a Red Crescent branch in Homs was attacked, taking all six ambulances out of action.
• In April, a branch in Raqqa was taken over by armed men, forcing volunteers to evacuate and set up facilities in another building.
“At least nine million Syrians, half of whom are children, continue to suffer the devastating consequences of an armed conflict that has been tearing the country apart for over two years," added Mr Young. "The humanitarian tragedy that continues unabated in Syria today is deplorable. In particular, more must be done to ensure aid reaches the neediest.
“Our fundamental principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence are as relevant today as they were 150 years ago. It’s because of these principles that we are able to work in conflict zones such as Syria, but we need all fighting parties to respect these values.”
Read the full pledge for solidarity on the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies website.
150 year anniversary
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement started in 1863. Tuesday 29 October marks 150 years since the movement was founded thanks to Swiss businessman Henry Dunant. He proposed the creation of national relief societies, staffed by volunteers, after he witnessed the suffering of men on both sides of the conflict in Solferino - part of the Second Italian War of Independence.