By Joe Lowry
As civil unrest continues in Syria, an eight-member international monitoring team, representing seven Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies from Central Asia, the Caucasus and western Europe, has arrived on Turkey’s south-eastern border.
The team was invited by Turkish Red Crescent Society (TRCS) to cover the distribution of relief aid to Syrians camped just across the border.
The initiative was described as 'a pioneering approach' by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) Secretary General, Bekele Geleta, in a letter to the society. “When I watch the news coverage the first thing I see is the symbol of the Turkish Red Crescent Society,” continued Geleta. “It makes us all very proud to see how quickly and effectively you are responding.”
Speaking from the border area on Tuesday, Italian Red Cross delegate Fabio Torretta described the team’s duties: “We visit the food factory every morning, where they load up polystyrene boxes of rice, French fries and chops, drinking yoghurt, bottled water and bread. Then we go in a Turkish Red Crescent truck and distribute the food to between 800 and 1,100 people per day.”
Those served by the Red Crescent are located along a seven-kilometre stretch of border, and the team makes a stop every kilometre to distribute food so people do not have to travel too far. Yesterday, hygiene parcels were also provided.
“The conditions are not good,” says Torretta. “People are living under tarpaulins, there are no sanitary facilities and the only source of water is a small lake. We’ve not seen any other support for these people apart from what the TRCS brings, and they are very grateful for it. They go back to their homes every two or three days to visit their relatives or to check their livestock but are afraid to go back full-time.”
TRCS has informed the Syrian embassy in Turkey, and the Syrian Red Crescent about its food supply operation for the displaced at the border area.
According to UN figures, between 500-1,500 people have fled across Syria’s 840 km long border with Turkey each day during June. Some 10,000 are accommodated in camps run by the Turkish government, with relief supplies and psychological support provided by the TRCS.