Need for humanitarian assistance increasing in Syria

Friday 04/03/2016
Peter Maurer, President of International Committee of Red Cross

DAMASCUS - The need for humanitarian assistance is increasing in Syria and humanitarian actors must be given access to vulnerable populations, said Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Maurer spoke to the Associated Press in Damascus on February 25th after returning from the cen­tral city of Homs. He had visited the Waer neighbourhood where a ceasefire was recently reached.
Speaking of Waer residents, Maurer said: “Sometimes they get access to some food, to some wa­ter, to some medical services, and sometimes for weeks they don’t.”
During his tour in Waer, Mau­rer visited an ICRC-supported community shelter and a hospital that was severely damaged in the fighting. The Al-Walid hospital is in desperate need of equipment and medical supplies and the ICRC expects to deliver doctors with medical supplies in the coming days, he said.
“My dominant impression from visiting Syria for the fourth time is that each time the needs are more profound,” Maurer added.
The United Nations says there are nearly 500,000 people in be­sieged areas in Syria and an es­timated 4.5 million Syrians are in a separate category called “hard to reach”.
Maurer earlier met with government officials, including Syrian Prime Min­ister Wael Nader al-Halqi, about the Syrian humanitar­ian crisis. “There is an under­standing by the key representa­tives that this has become a serious humanitarian crisis that has gone far be­yond the country,” Maurer said. “The discourse of sovereignty is a rela­tive one when a crisis has become a global crisis.
“In that sense I think everybody needs to review (their) position and then to see how we can work together in order to respond, again, in a much more meaningful way to those stark needs.”
Maurer said that of those in most need for help are people in areas that are not controlled by the government and are the hardest to reach for humanitar­ian actors such as the ICRC.
The UN World Food Pro­gramme (WFP) announced the first high-altitude airdrop of 21 tonnes of aid February 24th over the eastern city of Deir ez-Zor, which is under siege from Islamic State (ISIS) extremists. WFP later said it faced “technical difficul­ties” and indicated the drop may have been off target.
WFP said that due to weather conditions, including unexpected high winds over the area, ten of the 21 food pallets that were airdropped drifted away and are unaccounted for.
The ICRC has refused to use airdrops to reach isolated popula­tions in rebel-held areas on the premise that aid could get into the wrong hands. “It is very difficult to target air drops to the right people and to do it safely without a presence on the ground,” Maurer said.
Syria’s crisis, which began in March 2011, has killed at least 250,000 people, wounded 1 mil­lion and displaced half the coun­try’s population.
(The Associated Press)