| Press release
Syria: Extremely harsh winter raises acute humanitarian needs to highest level ever
Damascus/Beirut, 27 January 2022–Extreme winter conditions are putting communities already overwhelmed by overlapping crises in immediate danger, resulting in the highest level of acute humanitarian needs ever in Syria, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warns. In many areas, this winter has been one of the coldest in the past decade, with snowstorms and sub-zero temperatures.
IFRC is deeply concerned about the situation in the country as the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has reached the highest since the start of the crisis. According to the UN, a total of 14.6 million people needs support, 1.2 million more than in 2021. 6.9 million people are internally displaced.
Mads Brinch Hansen, Head of the IFRC Delegation in Syria, said:
“Exceptionally cold weather is making the lives of many people all around Syria even more difficult, especially the displaced communities living in temporary shelters who don’t have appropriate clothing or heating for sub-zero temperatures.
“The situation in Syria is worse than ever. The price of basic commodities such as food and fuel has skyrocketed making them unaffordable for the majority of people, escalations of violence are intensifying, and COVID-19 continues to put an extra burden on communities. At the same time, funding for humanitarian actors is shrinking.”
Eng. Khaled Hboubati, President of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), said:
“Daily, our volunteers in Hassakeh and everywhere in Syria see more people who are asking for support, more children who are without winter clothes in the middle of the storm. The situation is getting worse amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic sanctions that complicate our humanitarian response.
“We will continue doing our best to alleviate the suffering of millions of people and preserve their dignity. We need the support from partners and donors to restore the livelihoods of people and ensure sustainable solutions to accelerate the recovery.”
Hassakeh, where up to 45,000 people have been displaced by recent violence at Sina'a Prison, is one of the hardest-hit regions with sub-zero temperatures making the winter one of the coldest in recent history. Snow has also covered the Al-Hol camp, which hosts more than 60,000 displaced people.
SARC continues to be the main humanitarian actor in the country with thousands of volunteers responding to the acute needs caused by the conflict, economic crisis, and COVID-19 as well as the cold wave.
In Hassakeh, SARC has a key role in evacuating as well as providing medical services and drinking water for the newly displaced and the communities hosting them.
Almost 11 years since the start of the conflict, Syria continues to be one of the biggest and most complex humanitarian crises globally. Homes and whole cities have been utterly destroyed, forcing mass displacement.
According to the UN, 90 percent of the population in Syria lives below the poverty line and 70 percent are facing acute food shortages – figures that have not seen improvement in recent years due to the economic downturn, instability and disasters driven by climate change. In 2021, Syria faced the worst drought in more than 50 years.
To scale up the Syrian Arab Red Crescent's humanitarian response and meet the growing needs, IFRC calls for partners and donors to continue showing their solidarity towards the people in Syria. Funding is more urgent than ever to ensure Syrian people can cover their basic needs and maintain a life of dignity.
For more information:
In Beirut: Jani Savolainen, IFRC, [email protected], +961 70372812
In Damascus: Rahaf Aboud, Syrian Arab Red Crescent, [email protected], +963 959999853
IFRC Syria Country Plan
For the editors:
About the Syrian Arab Red Crescent:
The Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) is the main humanitarian actor in Syria. It has more than 13,500 staff members and volunteers in 14 branches and 97 sub-branches nationwide. Annually SARC reaches 5.6 million people with humanitarian assistance.
About the IFRC:
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world’s largest humanitarian network, comprising 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies working to save lives and promote dignity around the world. With a permanent delegation in Syria since 2007, IFRC has played a pivotal role in providing humanitarian services and supporting the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) in their organisational and strategic development and in strengthening SARC’s operational capacity.
| Press release
Red Cross Red Crescent reaching 1.5 million people on the move in MENA, yet millions are left without support
Beirut, 16 December 2021 – Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies are reaching more than 1.5 million migrants, refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) in the Middle East and North Africa, yet the number of people on the move left without essential support is colossal, a report by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has found.
Ahead of International Migrants Day on 18 December, the IFRC is calling for a stronger commitment to support people on the move during their journey, not only once they have managed to reach their planned destination – if they ever do.
Fabrizio Anzolini, Migration Regional Advisor for IFRC MENA, said:
“Countless migrants face inhumane conditions along their way, including violence, lack of food, shelter and access to health services. Climate change and conflicts are only expected to accelerate the number of people migrating out of the region in the coming months and years. We need to act right now on the routes and advocating for durable solutions.”
The region, with more than 40 million migrants and 14 million internally displaced people, has some of the world’s longest protracted conflicts, combined with frequent natural disasters, man-made crises and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Regional hotspots include the population movement from Afghanistan to Iran, the migration flows from Morocco, Tunisia and Libya to Europe, the extensive number of internally displaced persons in Syria, as well as the route from the Horn of Africa to Yemen, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.
Rania Ahmed, IFRC MENA Deputy Regional Director, said:
“Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are reaching more than 1.5 million migrants and displaced people in the Middle East and North Africa, but it is not enough. We need bigger investment and greater long-term commitment to address their plight. We need to mobilize all efforts and resources to ensure people on the move receive humanitarian assistance and protection. Migrants and displaced populations are intensely vulnerable and must be included in COVID-19 prevention, response, and recovery plans. We urge governments to ensure that people on the move have equal access to vaccinations, health care and basic services.”
With the engagement of the IFRC, Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the MENA region are on the frontline attempting to cover the enormous gap between people’s needs and the support that is available for them. Red Cross and Red Crescent teams provide multidisciplinary assistance, including health services, livelihood support, protection for children and victims of violence, mental health, and psychosocial support, as well as cash assistance. These support services are also widely available to host communities, leaving no one behind.
Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies remain committed to continue responding to the needs of migrants and displaced people as well as advocating for the support that they need at country, regional and global levels through evidence-based humanitarian diplomacy. However, their continued activities are hampered by shrinking funding. In addition, access to migrants is often limited, especially in conflict zones and due to restrictions put in place to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.
You can access the full report here: MENA Red Cross and Red Crescent Activities on Migration and Displacement – Snapshot 2021. The survey includes responses from twelve Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the Middle East and North Africa.
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:
In Geneva: Rana Sidani Cassou, +41 766715751 / +33 675945515, [email protected]
In Beirut: Jani Savolainen, +961 70372812 / +358 504667831, [email protected]
| Press release
EU and IFRC support people affected by the water crisis and drought in Syria
Damascus, 3 December 2021 – In response to the severe water crisis and drought in Syria, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has released 748,000 CHF (709,000 EUR) from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund.
The European Union is providing CHF 158.000 (150,000 EUR) in humanitarian funding to assist the most affected people. The funding is part of the EU's overall contribution to the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
The funds released to the IFRC will help the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) cater to the humanitarian needs of 15,000 people with food and health interventions over six months in Al Raqqa and Deir-ez-Zor, which are some of the most affected localities.
Since January 2021, Syria has been witnessing extreme drought conditions coupled with unprecedented low water levels of the Euphrates River leading to poor agricultural production and loss of livelihoods. Millions of people are now experiencing worsening food insecurity and increasing malnutrition rates.
The Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers and community health promoters will distribute food parcels and engage in hygiene promotion and disease prevention through awareness-raising about waterborne diseases and COVID-19.
Through the European Commission's Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department, the European Union helps millions of victims of conflict and disasters every year. With headquarters in Brussels and a global network of field offices, the European Union provides assistance to the most vulnerable people on the basis of humanitarian needs.
The European Union is signatory to a €3 million humanitarian delegation agreement with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to support the Federation's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF). Funds from the DREF are mainly allocated to “small-scale” disasters – those that do not give rise to a formal international appeal.
The Disaster Relief Emergency Fund was established in 1985 and is supported by contributions from donors. Each time a National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society needs immediate financial support to respond to a disaster, it can request funds from the DREF.For small-scale disasters, the IFRC allocates grants from the Fund, which can then be replenished by the donors. The delegation agreement between the IFRC and EU humanitarian aid enables the latter to replenish the DREF for agreed operations (that fit in with its humanitarian mandate) up to a total of €3 million.
For more information, please contact:
Rana Sidani Cassou, Head of Communications – IFRC MENA: Mobile +41766715751 / +33675945515 [email protected]
Anouk Delafortrie, Regional Information Officer – European Humanitarian Aid MENA: Mobile +962 777 57 0203 [email protected]
Syria: Complex emergency
More than ten years since the beginning of the Syria conflict in 2011, an estimated 13.4 million Syrians are still in need of some form of humanitarian relief. More than 90% of the population is currently estimated to be living under the poverty line and 5.6 million people have sought refuge in neighbouring countries. This Emergency Appeal enables the IFRC to support the Syrian Arab Red Crescent's ongoing, life-saving work reaching millions with food assistance, health and care services, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), livelihoods support and much more.
| Press release
Pledges are not enough - the world must not fail the people of Syria
Joint statement from the Presidents of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society (SARC), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) ahead of the Brussels V Conference on “Supporting the future of Syria and the region”
Geneva, 29 March 2021 - As we mark the tragic milestone of a decade of conflict in Syria, the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement calls upon the international community to translate words in action and ensure critical funding for one of the most brutal and far-reaching crises of our time.
Now, more than ever, Syrians need our solidarity and support. Ten years after the start of the crisis, the people of Syria are faced with a multitude of challenges: continuous hostilities, economic breakdown and the COVID-19 pandemic which has only exacerbated the immense humanitarian needs in the country. At present at least 13 million people need urgent assistance and are more dependent on aid than ever before.
The needs in Syria are enormous and humanitarian services remain a lifeline. Despite the security challenges and political blockages, we must continue to find ways to repair critical infrastructure and make sure people have access to basic services such as clean water, electricity and functioning health services.
“Our infrastructure is ruined. Our people are unable to cover their most basic needs because of serious shortages of food, water, fuel, and medicines,” said Khaled Hboubati, President of SARC, whose teams of staff and volunteers are working on the frontlines of the crisis, delivering more than 60 per cent of humanitarian assistance. “For a decade now, people in Syria have been living in agony. The world cannot abandon them,” added Mr Hboubati.
The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement has been responding to the needs of people in Syria since the first days of the conflict, with volunteers and staff providing vital aid to people in areas that others cannot reach. Without them, this humanitarian catastrophe would have been much worse. Each month, we currently assist around 4.5 million people inside Syria. For this life-saving work to continue, humanitarian workers must have sustained, safe, and non-politically motivated access to all people, families and communities in need. We ask that States and all parties to the conflict respect and ensure international humanitarian law in their operations.
Support is also desperately needed to help Syrians living outside of their homeland. Out of the 16.7 million people affected by the Syrian crisis, more than a third are currently hosted in neighbouring countries where National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are helping support millions of people, including through large-scale cash assistance in places like Turkey. In parallel, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies across Europe and elsewhere have been implementing a wide range of activities to help Syrians integrate into their host communities, from offering psycho-social support programmes, to running reception centres, to facilitating reunification procedures with family members left behind.
“Over the past decade, there has been tremendous generosity and solidarity in the form of aid funding for Syria and neighbouring countries,” said IFRC President Francesco Rocca. “Unfortunately, today we see that donations are declining, whereas the humanitarian crisis worsens every day. Funding is needed more than ever to ensure Syrians can cover their basic needs and maintain a life in dignity.”
Yet aid and funding alone will not resolve the crisis.
“Humanitarians are here to help but the ultimate responsibility lies with parties to the conflict,” said ICRC President Peter Maurer, recently returned from a visit to Syria. “Collective and convergent leadership across the political divide is urgently needed. Otherwise, there will be Brussels conferences 6, 7 and more. Ongoing financial support and anegotiated political solution will create the conditions for a brighter future for the Syrian people. Syrians cannot afford to endure another year in these desperate conditions, let alone another decade.”
| Press release
Syria crisis: 10 years on, humanitarian situation is worse than ever
Geneva, 4 March 2021 – The daily suffering of Syrians is worse now than it has been at nearly any point throughout the decade-long conflict that has ravaged the country. This is the sobering message delivered today by three senior Red Cross and Red Crescent officials as Syria enters the second decade of a relentless crisis.
Khaled Hboubati, the President of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, said:
“Continuing hostilities, a downward economic spiral, a refugee crisis that has reverberated around the world and the COVID-19 pandemic have conspired to push Syrian people to unacceptable extremes. For a decade now, people in Syria have been living in agony. As we speak, more than 13 million people need at least one type of assistance and about 8 million people are unable to respond to their basic needs.”
With the price of basic commodities more than doubling in the last year alone, food insecurity has worsened for the Syrian people. Around 12.4 million people - 60 per cent of the Syrian population - do not have regular access to enough safe and nutritious food, and more than 90 per cent of the population is estimated to live under the poverty line.
Speaking ahead of his visit to Syria, Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said:
“The people of Syria cannot afford to endure another year like this, let alone another ten. We need a political solution to end the conflict, ongoing financial support for the recovery - and a future for those who have lost so much.”
The immense humanitarian needs across Syria have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, said Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC):
“For most Syrians, worrying about the virus is a luxury they cannot afford. They cannot afford to protect themselves. They cannot isolate themselves at home or else no food would be on the table. And even if they do get contaminated by the virus, the health system has been battered so severely that access to treatment and care is limited.”
The Syrian Arab Red Crescent have been responding to the needs of people in Syria since the first days of the conflict. With the support of the ICRC and the IFRC, backed by dozens of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world, Red Crescent volunteers are delivering more than 60 per cent of aid across Syria. Without them, this humanitarian catastrophe would have been much worse. Since the beginning of the conflict, 65 volunteers of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and eight volunteers of the Palestine Red Crescent branch in Syria have lost their lives in the line of duty.
“We ask that States and all parties to the conflict respect and ensure international humanitarian law is respected in their operations,” added ICRC’s Maurer. “Humanitarian access, the protection of civilians, and humane treatment of detainees are not in the category of ‘nice to have’, they are both a moral and legal obligation.”
In the neighbouring countries of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, where an estimated 5.3 million Syrians have found refuge, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement also plays an essential role in supporting vulnerable refugees and local communities.
IFRC’s Rocca said:
“Now, more than ever, Syrians need our solidarity and support. Over the past decade there has been tremendous generosity and solidarity. Unfortunately, today, we see that donations are declining despite the worsening humanitarian situation. We have a moral duty to support the sustainability of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, an organization that is so integral to the delivery of the international community’s support. Without the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, millions more would go hungry every month.”
| Press release
World Humanitarian Day: One million masks produced by Syrian and Turkish volunteers, uniting forces against COVID-19
Ankara, Turkey (19 August 2020): Syrian refugees and Turkish people are coming together to help tackle the COVID-19 pandemic in Turkey and around the world. Since the pandemic began, over 120 volunteers and community members across Turkey have mobilized to produce more than 1.2 million masks to help people protect themselves from COVID-19.
Since 2015, Turkish Red Crescent, has been playing a crucial role in bringing Turkish and Syrian people together through its 16 community centres which 15 are them financed by the European Union. These centres are increasing livelihood opportunities, providing community-based health and first aid, giving psychosocial support.
Nearly 251,805 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Turkey since March, but cases are now lower since a spike in April. Although restrictions have begun to ease in the country, masks remain mandatory to help curb new infections.
Through the sewing courses offered in the community centres, refugee and Turkish communities began producing masks after seeing the massive demand for personal protective equipment. The mask production first started in Gaziantep, one of the most important textile manufacturing centres in Turkey and expanded quickly to other cities.
Volunteers are also producing masks specifically for people with disabilities. The masks have a transparent front, which helps people who are deaf-mute communicate easily.
Turkish Red Crescent has sent masks and PPE items to 40 countries including Georgia, Uganda, Tajikistan and many others since the pandemic started.
Around 250,000 people receive support from the Turkish Red Crescent community centres every year with the support from the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and funding from the European Union as part of its refugee response in Turkey.
Syria: Dying from hunger, conflict or COVID-19
They were perhaps two thousand stranded Syria returnees. Women, children and men sheltering from the unbearable heat and sun, on hill tops, under the scattered olive trees offering no shadow, carrying half empty jerrycans with water and waving at cars asking for help.
This is not a scene from a Hollywood movie.
This is at the No-Man’s-Land zone between the Syrian Lebanese borders; a stretch of a few kilometresin which people are stuck in the COVID-19 politics or the legal meanders of return. As if the 9 years of an unrelenting conflict, homelessness, and agony in all forms were not enough. Regardless of root causes as to what got people here, it encapsulates the cruelty of war and the pandemic.
A few days ago, I traveledto Syria from Lebanon by land, crossing a border closed for citizens but open for humanitarian organizations including the Red Cross and Red Crescent personnel. I saw the same people in the same place under the scorching sun several days later on my way back after visiting Damascus. Some have had their legal entry sorted out. Others are still out there sleeping under the open sky. As I write, my colleagues in Syria are looking for ways to assist those that may still be stranded.
Syrians are now hit by another wave of suffering: economic collapse, sanctions, hyperinflation, rising unemployment, businesses that barely survived the conflict are now shutting down, more hunger with families skipping meals, and shortages of medicine.
The devaluation of the local currency, the constraints and the blockage of international transfer of money are driving Syrians to extreme poverty. Syrian sons and daughters living abroad are experiencing serious challenges to send the 100 or 200 dollars, to parents who are still living in Syria. The impact is catastrophic.
Concretely, what does this mean?
It means, your 70-year-old mother, will no longer have a decent meal because she can’t afford it. It means, your 80-year-old father is no longer able to buy the asthma medication he needs for his survival. It means that daughters and sons, naturally tending to their elderly parents needs as part of a safety net that functioned well for centuries, are no longer able to meet their deeply rooted duties. It means that even emotionally and psychologically, Syrians are affected to the very core of their identity and dignity.
My message is not a political one, it is purely humanitarian. We at the Red Cross and Red Crescent have a neutral stance about the sanctions. We work as humanitarians to make sure that people are not suffering and dying because of lack of basic needs such as medicines, food or water. Innocent people in Syria are paying the price of failed diplomacy, and unnecessarily suffer daily.
During my visit, I heard a common and sad “joke.” Many Syrians told me: Either we die of hunger, of war, or we die of COVID-19. It doesn’t matter.”
In between the conversations, people asked: Can you send us coffee? Can you send us Tabascosauce? These things don’t make it to Syria anymore. One might think these items are luxuries. Well, we believe that preserving human dignity matters.
In Damascus, I met the dedicated leadership of the Syria Arab Red Crescent (SARC) the volunteers and the staff who joined SARC to help their people. COVID-19 didn’t stop them. The message “Stay Home” does not mean much to them because their job is to be with their communities, in the streets, in the ambulances, in the camps for refugees and the internally displaced.
I also visited the SARC Damascus branch; A nine-story building where each floor has a specific function. I started with the Emergency Response Teams on the ninth floor. I met young women team leaders and their volunteer teams who run the emergency calls and the ambulance dispatch. I asked them what was their number one concern? They said the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs). They must rationalize the PPEs and reuse them between the different teams. They send the PPEs to sterilization in between missions and sometimes, as a new emergency call kicks in, the PPEs are not sterilized yet. So, some take the risk of wearing utilized PPEs. Some can’t take the risk as they have children and families at home. With some 11,000 SARC volunteers at work across the country our current PPE supplies and resources are being exhausted at high speed.
I visited the physical rehabilitation and prostheses center. I saw young children, young woman and men trying to make prosthesis fit. They have been disabled by the war and trying to bounce back. Some smiled to me, some didn’t, and some cried in silence.
I visited another floor that hosts the dialyses unit. I met with the young doctors who are running between the fully packed beds with dialysis patients. They talked about the lack of spare parts, lack of filters for the dialysis machine, the maintenance needed, the inability of the patients to access the facility because of the conflict. I was left wondering how many have died lacking access to such lifesaving units?
Another floor was being converted to provide ICU capacity as the anticipated COVID-19 waves begin to hit.
I salute SARC, its dedicated volunteers, its managers, its doctors, its nurses, and its leaders who are doing their very best to deliver humanitarian aid in one of the most complex crisis that I have ever experienced in my 32 years of humanitarian work.
I walked out of the SARC headquarters and paused at the main doors next to a wall displaying the names of the 62 staff and volunteers who lost their lives in line of duty to save others. Thank you! I also managed to meet Syrian officials to discuss and agree on increased access, with UN and ICRC colleagues to better coordinate and expand the work.
Serious international diplomacy efforts are needed to halt the suffering and address the challenges that Syrians face every single day including but not limited to COVID-19. Increased humanitarian funding and ceasefires will allow us more access, save more lives, and simply offer more protection to people.
We, as humanitarians we will continue doing our part to alleviate the suffering; It will not be enough.
An urgent, just, and durable political solution is needed.
Double-Edged Stories of Loss and Joy from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent
Randa El Ozeir: It’s always been about people.When you see your friend dying before your eyes, no words can be big and expressive enough to capture the intensity of shock and sadness that wraps your whole body and mind. That was exactly what happened with Mohammed Tarek Alashraf, previously a paramedic volunteer in the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society (SARC) and currently the Disaster Management Unit Coordinator of the SARC Homs Branch. “At the time my colleague and friend, Hakam Duraq El-Sibaye, was martyred, a wave of sorrow engulfed me. We were exchanging a conversation when we received an emergency call. He was in another paramedic team. The SARC was allowed to move around during night time. Hakam’s team took on the task but got shot while doing their job. I was one of the paramedics to aid him and the others. We had to drive them to the hospital where Hakam passed away. It was really hard, and I still remember every detail of our last conversation, his voice and his smile.”Alashraf and the rest of the volunteers were hesitant and torn between continuing their work or quitting, “Hakam’s parents insisted on us to keep doing our job as would their son have wanted and help the community that needs us,” explained Alashraf, “and so far, we have helped to deliver and oversee the quality and accountability for implementation of relief aids to 129,420 affected families that equal to 594,000 people within Homs Governorate.”The story of Moaz Al Malki, who started as an SARC emotional supporter in 2012 and became a Water Team Coordinator in Damascus Branch, has a personal trauma twist. He said, “After we finished one of our emergency interventions to add chlorine to sterilize the water coming to Damascus city and add diesel oil to operate the water pumping station, I was kidnapped and detained for five long hours. Thanks to the efforts of some local community groups that were aware of the humanitarian organizations’ role and some competent authorities, I had been released with my companions and our machineries, and we left the area.”For Donia Mouin AbdAlla, Leader of first-aid team in the SARC, the main hurdle in her doing the job is the emotional state of the patient’s companions. They usually don’t help in making the decision for the patient, which complicates the paramedic task, especially when the crowd gathers around. “Additionally, the scarcity of financial means restricts the options, for example, when the situation requires using an automated ventilator that is available only in private hospitals,” explained AbdAlla. “I don’t exaggerate if I say that my work is a life or death matter for the person who needs rescuing. Being part of this reduces my frustration towards all human catastrophes and crises, particularly in my country. What motivates and excites me is the fact that, despite our limited capacities, we make a huge difference in the lives and the future of families. We see how our noble purpose lessens many distressed families in our beloved country,” said AbdAlla. She is always driven by the idea of “Saving lives” and isolating the patient from any source of harm or damage to stop the bleeding and enhance the recovery with the few equipment she has.One concrete instance filled AbdAlla with optimism, sweetness, and hope that still linger whenever she has a case to resuscitate. “A child fell from the first floor and was brought to our centre while I was on duty. His heart had stopped beating, and he urgently needed CPR. In less than 15 seconds I started the procedure, and after two full rounds, the child regained his beat following a deep inhale. I didn’t believe it amidst the joking of the paramedic’s team. My hands couldn’t stop doing the CPR and a stupid smile glued on my face and in my heart,” narrated AbdAlla.As the residents of Old Homs City begun returning to their homes, a beneficiary of the Home Repair and Building Project whose eyes welled up with tears thanked Alashraf saying, “Finally, I am at home today outside the shelter centre and can earn my living with dignity. Hadn’t been for the SARC, I wouldn’t have been able to come back home. The volunteers of the SARC are part of my family.” At this moment, Alashraf was over the moon and realized the tangible impact of the SARC’ humanitarian projects.The loveliest turn was in Al Malki’s story. He told us that, “in 2015, a special and great lady joined the SARC as a water engineer. This lady is my wife now, and next month we’re going to celebrate the third birthday of our beautiful son.”After 15 years with the SARC, Alashraf thinks that what kept him doing the same job is the team building, the teamwork spirit, the constant appreciation, the continuing training, improving the leadership skills, and being part of the decision-making. Al Malki said that, “the need in Syria and on the ground is tremendous and exceeds the capacity and power of all the partners and supporters who are trying very hard to help the affected people and the SARC. But my contribution in humanitarian work to better the livelihood of individuals and reserve their dignity gives me the satisfaction without the eternal question ‘what’s in it for me?’”
Syrian Arab Red Crescent and IFRC appeal for increased access and safety of volunteers at the beginning of Syria pledging conference
For ten years, the people of Syria have faced a brutal and unrelenting crisis. The Covid-19 pandemic and recent harsher economic sanctions have exacerbated humanitarian needs, making the situation more untenable than ever before, for civilians with no stake to the conflict. More than 11 million Syrians, who were once self-sufficient, are reliant on humanitarian assistance. Unemployment is above 50 per cent and food prices increased by 133 per cent in one year. Internally displaced people, host families, returnees and residents struggle to meet their needs for food, water, health care and other basic services. In just seven months, the number of food insecure people in Syria has spiked from 7,9 million to 9,3 million.
“The Covid-19 pandemic is a negative catalyst of a multitude of new and complex challenges including: the restriction of movement and goods, the delay of certain field activities, the closure of borders and a critical insufficiency of protective equipment for staff and volunteers,” says IFRC President Francesco Rocca. “These are just some of the factors that are dramatically impacting our operations. This pandemic has, once again, highlighted the importance and need for more locally led response. Our volunteers and staff are already on the ground responding. They are trained and ready, independent of travel bans or lockdowns. They are part of local communities and know their needs and challenges”.
Counting around 11,000 active volunteers and staff, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent is the largest community-based provider of humanitarian services in Syria and continues to play a pivotal role in delivering vital assistance, despite huge security constraints and challenging operating environments. Since 2011, 65 staff and volunteers, in addition to eight from the Palestine Red Crescent Society working in Syria, have been killed in the line of duty, with many more injured or detained, most recently in Idlib, in the north western region.
“Our volunteers and staff provide life-saving assistance to more than 5 million people a month throughout Syria. We urgently need parties to the conflict to act in accordance with international humanitarian law and guarantee the safe and unimpeded access of our volunteers to all communities in need, in order for us to deliver neutral, independent and impartial humanitarian assistance without the fear of being targeted.", says SARC President Eng. Khaled Hboubati.
"Despite all the obstacles and challenges, our volunteers are actively engaged across Syria, particularly in the northeastern and northwestern regions. Recent challenges posed by the emergence of COVID-19 and the unfair impact of economic sanctions on civilians, put our ability to deliver assistance at even higher risks. As we work to ensure that aid always reaches the most vulnerable people, we urgently need the support and solidarity of all donors”, concludes President Hboubati.
The Syrian Arab Red Crescent operates through 14 branches across the UN-recognized national borders of Syria, including 68 active sub-branches, in territories controlled by different parties. More than 11 million people are in need of aid. Among them, 6 million are displaced, some for the second or third time in ten years. A more violent outbreak of Covid-19 and a flare up of the armed conflict are a constant threat, particularly for those living in camps such as Al Hol or crowded suburbs - where the displaced more than doubled the number of inhabitants - where physical distancing is an impossibility.
“Responding to the needs of a population lacking supplies essential for its survival is a legal obligation under International Humanitarian Law. Too often, humanitarian access in Syria has been used by parties to the conflict as a commodity in political transactions or negotiations”, adds IFRC’s President Francesco Rocca. “At the beginning of the IV Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and IFRC call on all parties to respect UN resolutions granting safe access and protection to humanitarian workers as well as civilians.”
The Syrian Arab Red Crescent and IFRC further call on donors to continue to respond and sustain their support both within Syria and in the region at large, focusing on neighbouring countries hosting refugees from Syria. In 2019, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement have provided humanitarian aid to more than three million people in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq and Turkey. Movement partners are helping refugees, host communities and authorities in the neighbouring countries to enable them to cope with displacement and the additional burden on public services.
Syrian Arab Red Crescent
In Damascus: Rahaf Aboud, +963 959 999 853, Rahaf Aboud [email protected]
In Geneva: Tommaso Della Longa, +41 79 708 43 67, [email protected]
In Beirut/Damascus: Rana Sidani Cassou, +961 71 80 27 79, [email protected]
| Press release
Repatriation of child from al-Hol camp in Syria
Beirut/Geneva, 7 November 2019 – A young Albanian boy will be reunited with his family in Italy later today following a successful repatriation effort involving the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and different authorities.
The young boy had been living in al-Hol camp in northern Syria. He was taken to Syria by his mother in 2014. His mother was later killed during fighting.
Francesco Rocca, IFRC President, accompanied the child from Syria to Lebanon this morning. He said:
“I would like to thank all those involved in securing the safe return from al-Hol camp of this boy to his family in Italy. In particular, I want to thank the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, and its President Khaled Hboubati, for the huge efforts that have been made to facilitate this repatriation, and for the tremendous dedication that it has shown and continues to show in its response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria.”
According to authorities, more than 100,000 people are living in camps in northern Syria, including 68,000 in al-Hol camp alone. This includes an estimated 28,000 children from more than 60 different countries. Rocca continued:
“This news is positive, but it is barely a drop of relief in an ocean of suffering. We call on the national governments of the foreigners in the camp and all concerned parties to take action in a manner that alleviates the suffering of a very vulnerable group of people. Ideally this approach would allow individuals to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
“We appreciate that this situation is complex. There are legitimate concerns that have been raised by governments. But those concerns must be balanced with the need to treat people humanely. Today’s news demonstrates that, with political will, a solution is possible,” said Rocca.
Khaled Hboubati, President of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, said:
“We recognize the importance of our duty to restore family links. We spare no efforts to meet this responsibility today and in the future, in parallel to the other humanitarian responsibilities we shoulder. Our goal is to alleviate the suffering of the most vulnerable people in Syria, working hand-in-hand with our partners.”
IFRC President Rocca urged the media to ensure that the boy and his family are given time and space to recover from their ordeal
“I appreciate that there is a lot of interest in this story. But now that he is safe, let’s leave this boy and his family alone to heal.”
Italian Red Cross will continue to support the family, including with psychosocial support.
IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network, comprising 190 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies working to save lives and promote dignity around the world.
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| Press release
Syria: Heaviest flooding in decade worsens humanitarian crisis in Al Hasakeh region
Damascus/Beirut/Geneva, 17 April 2019 – Heavy rains have caused the worst flooding in a decade across Syria’s Al Hasakeh region, where 118,000 people are facing near complete destruction of their homes and livelihoods.
The majority of the affected population are internally displaced people who have fled conflict in Northern Syria and are receiving humanitarian assistance from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the only organization that has access to this part of the country.
Several camps for internally displaced people have been heavily affected across the region, including some 40,000 people in Al Hol camp and approximately 86 million square metres of land have been submerged in flood waters, destroying crops and livestock.
Paula Fitzgerald, Head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Country office in Syria, said:
“The flooding is unlike anything this region has seen in years and is occurring on top of what is already a humanitarian crisis. The affected population has recently fled conflict and lost everything. These floods push people beyond their ability to cope.”
More than 120 Red Crescent volunteers are involved in providing emergency relief and health services to people in need.
The IFRC has launched an international emergency appeal seeking 3.5 million Swiss francs to expand Syrian Arab Red Crescent support to an additional 45,000 people (9,000 families) with the provision of basic household relief items, food parcels (ready to eat and food for cooking), water, sanitation and hygiene and health services over the next six months.
“The Syrian Arab Red Crescent is providing critical support to these very vulnerable communities whose needs have doubled as a result of this disaster,” said Ms Fitzgerald. “The IFRC and all International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement partners are working together to address these needs against a backdrop of incredible complexity. A swift response is essential to let these people know that they are not alone.”
| Press release
Syria conference: “This humanitarian emergency is not over”
Brussels, 14 March 2018 – The President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has told a major international conference that although fighting in Syria has decreased over the past 12 months, humanitarian needs continue to grow.
Speaking at the third Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region, IFRC President Francesco Rocca said:
“This humanitarian emergency is not over. Even though the overall level of fighting has reduced, new needs are emerging. In fact, improved access in some areas is actually increasing demand for Red Crescent services and support.”
Syrian Arab Red Crescent teams are finding that in many newly accessible areas, years of war and neglect have left people without access to even basic services. In these places, Red Crescent volunteers are often faced with the task of restoring basic services such as water, food, basic health services, and psychosocial support.
“These services are critical to promoting peace and helping, eventually, to return a sense of normality. Of course, the opposite is also true: if these basic needs are not met, then the consequences for Syria’s future may be felt for generations,” said Mr Rocca.
Mr Rocca spoke also of the role played by National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in countries neighbouring Syria that are now home to millions of refugees. He urged donors to continue their support for operations in these countries. He spoke also of the role the Red Crescent is playing in al-Hol, a camp that is now home to around 60,000 people, including the families of foreign fighters.
“Red Crescent volunteers are in the field providing support to everyone they can. In al-Hol camp they are working alongside other humanitarian actors to meet the needs of people, mostly women and children, many of them foreigners. We call on all concerned parties to agree to an organized and systematic approach to addressing and resolving the dire situation unfolding in al-Hol,” said Mr Rocca.
| Press release
New interactive classroom tool and game teaches kids about Syrian refugee crisis
Budapest/Geneva, 13 March — As the devastating conflict in Syria enters its 9th year, a Red Cross Red Crescent partnership is launching a powerful interactive classroom tool to help European students understand and empathise with the dangers and difficult choices faced by young Syrian refugees and their families.“Brothers Across Borders” is a web-based interactive game and movie, accompanied by an in-depth teaching and discussion guide in eight languages. It was developed by the Danish Red Cross, in partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and 14 other National Societies that aid Syrian refugees.In the game, students and other players become Ismael, a young Syrian refugee from Aleppo, who crosses into Turkey in search of his missing brother. The player uses Ismael’s mobile phone and his brother’s Instagram account to receive clues and follow his brother’s trail. He meets many interesting characters on his journey who offer help. As the search goes on, the player, as Ismael, is forced to make tough choices and manage their consequences, impacting the action of the movie and Ismael’s life. All the while, Ismael communicates by text with his mother, who remains with the rest of the family in an area of Aleppo under bombardment.Klaus Nørskov, Head of Communications with the Danish Red Cross, said:“We decided to use gaming techniques that young people are familiar with to captivate and engage them in the stories of Syrian refugees. By making the game lifelike, students and other players outside of classroom settings experience the characters’ fears, uncertainties and dilemmas as if they are living through it themselves.”The teaching materials include a range of discussion topics and exercises on the Syria conflict, regional geography, culture, family life and language and on themes such as displacement, refugees and asylum.Simon Missiri, Director of IFRC’s Europe region said:“Young people today are exposed to heated public debate about migration, but few understand the desperation and difficult choices refugees and migrants face before, during and after taking flight.“We hope teachers in Europe and beyond will use this innovative classroom tool to spur learning and discussion about the Syrian conflict. We also hope it will give students insight into the impact of war and displacement on ordinary people, including Syrian children they may now share a classroom with.”The characters in the movie are played by Syrian refugees, people from Turkish communities who host them and staff of the Turkish Red Crescent.Brothers Across Borders is funded by the European Union Regional Trust Fund as part of a larger programme, Madad, which assists displaced Syrians and host communities in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.
Syria: Red Crescent convoy brings life-saving aid to remote camp
A team of 146 Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) volunteers has arrived at the remote Rukhban Camp, bringing medicine, food, clothes, hygiene kits and other relief items to more than 40,000 people in desperate need.
The 133-truck SARC convoy travelled more than 265km to reach the camp, which lies in the desert close to the borders of Syria, Jordan and Iraq. The trucks were loaded with food kits, ready to eat meals, nutritional supplies, sanitation, hygiene supplies, education materials. The volunteers will also vaccinate more than 10,000 children against measles, polio, tuberculosis and hepatitis.
This convoy is supported by the United Nations and is only the second to reach Rukhban through Syria since 3 November 2018.
A spokesperson for SARC called for “all guarantees needed to deliver humanitarian aid to the due people everywhere in Syria. SARC reiterates its full readiness to support the most vulnerable groups in line with the Fundamental Principles of the International Movement of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.”
Syria: Red Crescent brings hope and warmth to communities affected by harsh winter
By Karina Lapteva, IFRC
During winter, IFRC and Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) increase humanitarian response efforts to help children and families to cope with the cold weather in most affected areas.
Years of war brought destruction to many areas in Homs, Rural Damascus, Aleppo, Raqqa, Dier Ez Zor and Dar’a. Large numbers of displaced people are returning destroyed homes and have limited or no access to basic services. Khaled Erksoussi, Secretary General of SARC, said: “It is our humanitarian duty to spare no efforts to bring a lifeline to the most affected people, and to help families and communities in their efforts to resume their normal life.”
SARC, with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), has been able to bring support to around 200,000 boys, girls, women and men - including by convoy to Dier Ez Zor, Raqqa, Aleppo, Dara’a and East Ghouta – since October 2018. Similar operations to Hassake and other locations are being planned.
Through the IFRC-supported network of 31 health facilities operated by SARC in areas where the system is heavily disrupted, approximately 400,000 people per year have access to emergency and basic health care services. In addition, SARC and IFRC continue to increase efforts to help households and communities rebuild their lives and livelihoods - in 2018, 110,000 people were reached with tailored livelihood interventions in rural and urban areas.
However, much more still needs to be done. IFRC urgently seeks support for its Syria: Complex Emergency Appeal to guarantee an uninterrupted provision of first aid and primary health care; timely delivery of life-saving and life-sustaining emergency relief and special winter assistance for children, and household and community-based livelihoods interventions. The appeal currently has a threatening funding shortfall of 15.4 million Swiss francs.
| Press release
IFRC President renews call for Syrian Arab Red Crescent access to besieged areas and scale-up of humanitarian relief in Syria
Damascus, 20 December 2017 – Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) volunteers and staff are the lifeline to millions, covering the last and the most difficult mile to reach the most vulnerable. Providing these volunteers with safe, secure, and regular access to communities in need across Syria is a humanitarian imperative, said Mr. Francesco Rocca, newly elected President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), at the end of his official visit to Syria.
The IFRC President visited Syria to meet with SARC volunteers and staff and to hold high-level discussions with government officials on the need for a significant scaling up of humanitarian relief and access of Red Crescent volunteers and staff to besieged and hard-to-reach areas, including Eastern Ghouta where conflict has severely limited civilian access to food and lifesaving health services.
“I am humbled by the bravery and spirit of SARC staff and volunteers. They have shown unparalleled courage and resilience as they bring humanitarian services and relief to millions of people who have endured immeasurable suffering and loss in the course of this seven-year conflict”, said Mr Rocca.
Mr Rocca was welcomed to Damascus by the SARC President, Mr Khaled Hboubati and visited shelters run by staff and volunteers near the capital.
In a series of high-level meetings with senior government officials, Mr Rocca also discussed ways to provide further support to the Red Crescent as demands for its services continue to grow, particularly when the country begins the process of recovery from conflict.
“The situation is critical,” said Mr Rocca. “There are more than 13 million people in Syria who still have urgent humanitarian needs. Each day, thousands of SARC volunteers provide emergency food and health care to communities who have lost everything and help people rebuild their lives with psychosocial support and sustainable livelihood programmes. Their neutrality and impartiality not only save lives, but will be critical as some communities begin the huge and difficult task of rebuilding”, he said.
SARC is the largest provider of humanitarian services in Syria with more than 7,800 active volunteers who work in close partnership with other humanitarian partners present in Syria to distribute relief to more than 5 million people each month.