Syrians running out of ways to escape conflict: Red Cross #Syria
The spread of Syria’s civil war has made it increasingly difficult for civilians to escape the conflict, and many are afraid to seek medical care, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday.
“Through the spreading of the fighting people lose … escape routes out of the fights,” Peter Maurer told reporters in Stockholm after a meeting with Sweden’s Development Aid Minister Gunilla Carlsson.
“In summer, when fighting was going on in Aleppo and Homs, you could still move to Idlib or to some other places. Those places are increasingly rare because fighting is covering more parts of Syria.”
The latest toll brought the number of people killed in 20 months of violence in the country to more than 40,000, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Maurer also warned that “a much deeper humanitarian crisis” would unfold if attacks on medical workers and ambulances continued.
“The general population of Syria is afraid to see medical doctors and go to hospital because hospitals have become” military targets, he said.
Although the aid agency has managed to double the amount of aid brought into the country over the past three months, it was sometimes difficult to negotiate access for “neutral, impartial” deliveries in the highly polarised country, he added.
The Syrian uprising began as peaceful reform protests last year, inspired by the Arab Spring. It has since been transformed into an armed insurgency after the government began crushing demonstrations.
Most rebels, like the population, are Sunni Muslims in a country dominated by a minority regime of Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
A bomb is dropped on the town of Houla, near Homs in Syria, just metres from where a group of people are filming. The local men are filming the destruction left in the town when they rush to take cover after hearing the thunder of a jet engine. Just seconds later there is a large explosion at the end of the street
Monitors report 180 killed in #Syria amid intense clashes in Aleppo
By AL ARABIYA WITH AGENCIES
More than 180 people were killed in Syria on Saturday, monitors said, as regime troops clashed with opposition forces near the center of Aleppo and other areas across the country.
The fighting raged in Suleiman al-Halabi, one of Aleppo’s main streets, and the army prevented residents from venturing in the area as steady gunfire rattled the district.
“The clashes broke out two days ago,” said Salah who fled his home on Suleiman al-Halabi with his wife and three children on Friday for a safer location two streets away in neighboring Midan district.
“When the clashes began, we would go down to the basement with four other families, but for the past two days the fighting has been almost non-stop so we decided to move to a safer area,” he said.
According to Salah “almost 80 percent of the people in Suleiman al-Halabi left their homes after rebels entered the area.”
In the adjacent neighborhood of Midan, which is held by the regular army, residents panicked as they heard gunfire and some shouted: “Watch out there are snipers.”
Streets in the neighborhoods were empty and shops were locked up while several buildings were gutted and apartments destroyed.
“The battle is now between snipers,” Sheikh Walid, the head of a rebel brigade in the southern Amiriya district, told an AFP correspondent who reported that only few hundred meters separate the rival snipers.
The correspondent witnessed a sniper as he took cover behind a pile of sandbags to open fire while behind him other fighters armed with rocket launchers and machine guns prepared to swing into action.
Elsewhere in Aleppo, five members of the same family, including children, were killed in the eastern Maysar district, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
Residents also told AFP that rebel reinforcements were pouring into the eastern district of Sakhur and Shaar.
Saturday’s death toll also included 11 soldiers who were killed in fighting and rebel attacks in Aleppo province, near the border with Turkey, said the Britain-based Observatory which relies of a network of activists on the ground.
The soldiers, and six rebels, were killed in the Orm and Kaf Jum areas, the monitoring group said, adding that a woman also died in shelling as rebels attacked checkpoints in Abezmo.
“The state has no presence except for military and administrative posts” in the western region of the Aleppo province in northern Syria, Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP by telephone.
In Damascus province, three women were among seven people who died when a shell hit a civilian bus and the bodies of six people killed by gunfire were found in the central Qadam neighborhood of the capital, said the Observatory.
According to the Local Coordination Committees, the six people were from one family and died at the hands of regime forces.
In the northwest province of Idlib, a Syrian-Arab Red Crescent worker was shot dead along with another man by regime forces, the Observatory said.
Violence nationwide left at least 85 people — 34 civilians, 28 soldiers and 23 rebels — killed on Saturday, according to the watchdog.
The new head of the Swiss-run International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer, says he was deeply alarmed by the devastation and suffering he witnessed during his recent three-day visit to Syria.
“I was shocked by the immense destruction of infrastructure and homes in several areas I visited in Mu’dhamiya, Qaboun and Harasta [on the outskirts of Damascus]. And I was deeply moved by the stories of distraught children who lost their parents in the fighting,” said Maurer, the former Swiss diplomat who took over as ICRC president on July 1.
The ICRC says needs have grown “exponentially” in recent weeks due to the escalation of the fighting and says delivery of humanitarian aid needs to be urgently sped up.
“Medical stocks are running out, doctors are overstretched or insufficiently qualified to be treating certain cases,” Maurer told a news conference in Geneva on Friday.
Maurer also said he had had a “sober, to-the-point” 45-minute discussion with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus about the humanitarian needs.
“He showed his commitment to work on the many different points and facilitate the administrative hurdles,” said the new ICRC boss.
“I have the impression that Assad and his government realise that the crisis is getting worse…that people are in need and they have to do something to allow aid through to their suffering people.”
Maurer said Assad told him the ICRC could operate on the ground in the country as long as it remained “neutral and independent”.
ICRC President Maurer (centre) visited wounded fighters in Syria (ICRC / I. Malla)
During talks with Assad and top Syrian officials, the ICRC president also repeated the request to visit all persons detained in Syria in connection with the current events and underlined the need to respect international humanitarian law.
“President al-Assad expressed his readiness to address this issue,” said Maurer.
But he added that “the positive commitments I received during my meetings will obviously have to be followed up and tested in the coming weeks.”
An estimated 1.2 million people have been forced from their homes within Syria during the conflict, many of them staying in public buildings.
The ICRC has 50 foreign and Syrian aid workers in the country. Since the start of the year, the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent have distributed relief items to 800,000 people and ensured that over one million people have enough clean water. But heavy fighting over recent months means “we are confronted with a new situation”, said the ICRC president.
Swiss long-term support
Senior Swiss foreign ministry officials say the Syrian population will need humanitarian aid for several years as there is no end in sight for the 17-month conflict between the government and rebels.
Beat von Däniken, coordinator of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation in the Jordanian capital Amman, said the Syrians could rely on Swiss help.
“We plan to stay in region for a while,” he told a news conference in Bern on Thursday.
The foreign ministry earlier this week announced it was increasing its aid budget to SFr13 million ($13.6 million). The money is going toward aid efforts by the ICRC and United Nations organisations.
The Swiss contribution also helps fund projects with families in Lebanon who take in Syrian refugees or for schools in Jordan to house the displaced people.
Von Däniken says about 2.5 million people in Syria depend on humanitarian assistance while aid organisations face increasing resistance from the parties involved in the conflict.
Switzerland is among the top ten donors for Syria according to Manuel Bessler, head of the Humanitarian Aid Unit in the foreign ministry.
Switzerland also supports a political programme by the Syrian opposition and it called on the UN Security Council to take suspected cases of war crimes to an international tribunal.
Neither of these efforts compromise Switzerland’s status as a neutral country in the Middle East, according to foreign ministry officials.
UNICEF scales up emergency health and nutrition response to meet increasing needs of children affected by crisis in Syria
AMMAN, 6 September 2012 – Thousands of Syrian children are being screened to prevent malnutrition as part of a regional response to meet the growing health and nutrition needs of an estimated 1.3 million children affected by the ongoing crisis – including children inside Syria and in surrounding countries.
The nutrition screening in Za’atari refugee camp in northern Jordan is taking place in parallel with a weekly immunization clinic in the camp. UNICEF and the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and partner agencies, will also launch a large-scale polio and measles vaccination campaign targeting more than 100,000 children in Za’atari, nearby transit centres, and communities hosting refugees in northern Jordan.
“Conflict has disrupted health services across Syria so most refugee children and their families have not had access to routine immunizations or other basic health services,” says UNICEF Middle East Regional Health Advisor Mahendra Sheth. “This work is vital because during a crisis children are most vulnerable to disease outbreaks and malnutrition, especially children living in camp settings like Za’atari.”
Under extremely difficult conditions, UNICEF and local partners in Syria are also reaching families sheltering in schools across Damascus with life-saving health care. Eight mobile medical teams are to be dispatched to reach 175,000 people in many regions hardest hit by the ongoing conflict including Aleppo, Damascus, Dara’a, Hama and Homs. Rapid assessments to monitor the nutritional situation of children are to also be scaled up in Damascus and rural Damascus.
In Lebanon and Iraq, where more than 40,000 and 15,000 Syrian refugees are sheltering respectively, immunizations are also being provided and the nutritional status of children 5 years of age and under is being monitored closely.
“The health and nutrition needs of Syrian children across the region are rapidly increasing so we must act now to ensure they are protected,” says UNICEF’s Middle East and North Africa Regional Director Maria Calivis.
UNICEF is appealing to the international community for increased funding of its emergency water, sanitation, education, health and nutrition programmes which are reaching tens of thousands of Syrian children and their families in Syria and neighbouring countries.