Need for humanitarian assistance increasing in Syria
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)