23 December 2016
The Red Cross and Red Crescent have completed the evacuation of some 35,000 people from eastern Aleppo.
Buses and ambulances transported people to neighbouring rural areas during a week-long operation marked by stops and starts, and increasingly bad weather.
One hundred critically wounded and sick patients were among the evacuees.
Marianne Gasser, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Syria, said: “Our priority, aside from helping the most vulnerable, was to ensure that civilians were leaving of their own free will.
“These are communities whose neighbourhoods have been devastated by violence and families have been struggling for months to find safety, food, medical care or appropriate shelter.
“They appeared desperate to leave, even though the situation was extremely painful and confusing.”
People burning clothes to keep warm
The weather during the evacuation operation was very cold, with temperatures below freezing and snow on some days.
While waiting to leave, people burnt whatever they could find, including blankets and clothes, to keep themselves and their children warm.
More than 100 Red Crescent volunteers and Red Cross staff members stayed close to them during the week.
This helped to ensure people’s safety and provided accurate information about the operation.
Two nearby towns also evacuated
The Aleppo evacuation was accompanied by a parallel operation in the towns of Foua and Kefraya in Idlib province.
The Red Cross and Red Crescent temporarily evacuated more than 1,200 residents, mostly women, children and elderly people.
“Civilians who, like these thousands of families from Aleppo and Foua and Kefraya, chose to leave must be able to return to their homes when they want to,” Gasser said.
“Many will one day want to come back.”
Evacuees get emergency relief
Since the end of November, we have provided food, water, medical care and a place to sleep to around 50,000 people who have left eastern Aleppo.
Donations to our Syria Crisis Appeal have boosted support. Mattresses, blankets, tarpaulins and sleeping mats for 20,000 families are arriving in Syria now.
Another 80,000 food parcels will reach Syria in early 2017.
During the evacuation and in supporting people afterwards, the Red Cross and Red Crescent acted as a neutral humanitarian intermediary.
We will continue to provide life-saving emergency relief in Syria as long as we are needed.