With no end in sight to the fighting, the humanitarian situation in Syria keeps deteriorating. The Red Cross Red Crescent (RCRC), continues to work to overcome the obstacles it faces in its efforts to bring much-needed assistance to people throughout the country.
The suffering of men, women and children has reached unprecedented levels across the country. As fighting escalates in different parts of Syria, gaining access to certain areas, such as Aleppo, Deir Ezzor and Idlib, is becoming increasingly challenging. Nevertheless, food parcels, mattresses and blankets continue to be delivered and distributed across the country, whilst efforts continue to meet water and sanitation needs throughout Syria.
"Responding to the needs in an efficient and timely manner remains a cornerstone of our operations," said Edwin Gilmore, who coordinates the logistics in the country as part of the RCRC effort.
"Road blockage, damaged infrastructure and heavy fighting are some of the challenges we have to work our way around to reach those in need. At times that means we have to find alternative routes or seize a brief window of opportunity when the fighting subsides."
The harsh weather conditions that swept across Syria at the beginning of January not only deepened the misery of displaced people but also added to the challenges facing relief convoys and to the time it took them to reach their destinations. "It took us nearly 10 hours to reach the city of Idlib, a journey that would normally take four hours," said Marianne Gasser, in Syria, after returning from Idlib with a RCRC delegation.
Nevertheless, since the beginning of January the RCRC has managed to bring aid to needy people in Damascus, Rural Damascus, Homs, Hama, Tartous, Lattakia, Aleppo, Idlib, al-Hassakeh, al-Raqqah and Deir Ezzor. RCRC staff have also managed to conduct visits to a number of areas, including Rural Damascus, Homs, Hama and Sweida, where they have jointly assessed water and sanitary facilities and planned for future aid distributions.
"This is no easy task, but we are very determined and our staff are pushing the limits of the possible every day. Hearing people’s stories and seeing how they live helps us better understand the humanitarian needs on the ground and respond to them more efficiently. We always attempt to strike a balance between our concern for the safety of our staff and the need for us to be in the field ourselves. We are even negotiating on the front lines." said Ms Gasser.
Photo: Staff offload bottled water at an rural Damascus warehouse © ICRC