4 February 2016
The international community must find an urgent political solution to the crisis in Syria, according to the head of the Red Cross.
At a donor conference in London today, Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), spoke to world leaders about the numerous humanitarian problems faced by Syrians and aid agencies.
As well as emphasizing the need for a political solution, Mr Maurer called for unimpeded humanitarian access in Syria.
‘How do we get out of here?’
“Last year, the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent helped over 16 million people inside Syria, but we can’t reach everyone,” said Mr Maurer.
“Humanitarian aid is always just a quick fix, and never enough. Therefore, as long as this goes on, people will lack food, so they will get weak.
"They have no fuel for heating, so they get sick. They have no medicine, so they get sicker. And they have no hospitals, so, eventually, they die. The indirect consequences of warfare add to the direct impact.
“So how do we get out of here? Lift all sieges immediately. Start putting Syrians first, and your own interests second.
“Find a political solution, urgently. In the meantime, ensure that international humanitarian law is respected by you and your partners, whoever they are.
“And give us access so we can bring food and medicine to all the children, women and men in Syria.
“We got to today's catastrophe because of the lack of political action and ambition to resolve the crisis, and because humanitarian aid is being used as a bargaining chip in political negotiations.
"We'll need you to show more political ambition to open impartial humanitarian spaces and less political meddling in humanitarian work.”
Attacks against civilians
Over 4.5 million Syrians have fled Syria while twice as many are displaced within the country.
Mr Maurer warned that attacks against civilians have become the norm in Syria – a violation of international humanitarian law.
“Let me be clear: attacks on civilians are not collateral damage,” he said. “Bombing civilians is a standard practice of warfare in Syria – but that does not make it acceptable.
“While the front lines have hardly moved over the last years, the civilian population’s suffering has surged."
World leaders and non-governmental organisations have gathered at the conference to address the urgent needs of the Syria crisis.
Among the issues being addressed are the funding shortfall for humanitarian work and children’s access to education.
Dr Abdul Rahman Attar, president of our partners the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), was among those in attendance.
“The needs in Syria are still growing, people have lost all their means for life,” said Dr Attar.
“This conference will ask the international community for more generosity. I am optimistic. It is a good opportunity to meet world leaders to explain to them the real situation on the ground.”
In five years, 58 Red Crescent volunteers have been killed while carrying out humanitarian work in Syria.
“The ICRC and SARC are the only ones who are able to cross front lines, and for that reason we pay the price,” said Dr Attar.
“We are following our principles of neutrality and impartiality. We are ready to help everybody, no matter who they may be.
“But we need the sieges across Syria to be lifted, as well as safe and unconditional access for humanitarian workers.”