IFRC President calls for protection for volunteers and respect for the Movement’s fundamental principles in Syria

Published: 24 May 2013 15:04 CET

By Pierre Kremer, IFRC, in Syria

In the face of increasing needs in Syria, the IFRC president calls for full protection of volunteers, free access to people in need and full compliance to Red Cross Red Crescent Fundamental Principles.

At the occasion of a short visit in Syria on 22 May, Tadateru Konoé, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) met with Dr Faisal Meqdad, Deputy Foreign Minister in Syrian Government.

President Konoé said that role of the IFRC is, first and foremost, to support the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) in fulfilling its humanitarian mandate, and to strengthen its operational capacities.

“SARC is the only humanitarian organization which can extend its services across the whole country, working in full compliance with the Red Cross Red Crescent Fundamental Principles, particularly humanity, neutrality, unity and independence,” Konoé said. “It is vitally important to facilitate SARC humanitarian workers’ access and services to those who need it the most, without distinction.”

SARC has expanded its operations, providing assistance to almost 2 million people each month through 3,000 active volunteers, operating in 14 branches and 80 sub-branches across Damascus and in many other vulnerable parts of the country. SARC also partners with the World Food Programme, UNHCR and NGOs to deliver aid.

President Konoé told Dr Meqdal that he had been inspired by the commitment and dedication of SARC volunteers in the face of increasing difficulties. “They embody every day the power of our fundamental principles in action despite extreme conditions. They show the world the power of humanity,” he said.

As SARC intensifies its efforts to assist more people, the president called on all concerned to respect the Red Cross Red Crescent Fundamental Principles, mandate and emblems, and to guarantee the security and protection of humanitarian workers including volunteers. “The safety of humanitarian workers needs strengthening,” he said. “More than 20 SARC volunteers and staff have been killed since the beginning of the crisis. Hundreds of others cross front lines working in shifts around the clock in areas of great insecurity.”

After 26 months of protracted violence in Syria, the humanitarian situation has reached an unprecedented scale. Over 80,000 people have been killed during this period, more than 4 million Syrians are internally displaced, while 1.5 million have fled to surrounding countries. An estimated 3.1 million children need support. Within the country, all areas of life have been severely affected: infrastructure, livelihoods, access to food, safe water and sanitation. Fuel shortages are worsening in many parts of the country while one-third of Syria’s hospitals are out of service.

SARC president, Dr. Abdul Rahman Attar expressed his appreciation to the IFRC for its valued support over past two years, and called for dramatically augmenting capacities and resources through SARC in response to the deepening humanitarian impact of the crisis.

“The IFRC appeal, in support of SARC, will be revised very soon with a possible increase of the total amount from 39 million Swiss francs to about 50 million Swiss francs,” Konoé said. “We will continue promoting a strong sense of solidarity to SARC, and respect its lead agency role across the country, in order to scale up its service capacity and address the growing size and complexity of humanitarian needs.”