Hundreds of thousands of people affected by intense fighting have been receiving aid distributed by the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. In addition, the ICRC has succeeded in delivering medical supplies in some of the areas hardest hit by violence.
ICRC staff returned to Homs this week to deliver aid, in particular to hospitals and other health-care facilities. "While this is certainly a positive development, much more remains to be done," said Marianne Gasser, the head of the ICRC delegation in Syria. "We need to proceed with caution, however, as it is very risky for everyone, not least for our personnel and for Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers working in the most dangerous areas." Other field visits were carried out to several parts of Rural Damascus, including Harasta, and in Sweida in the south, where many displaced people have taken refuge.
The ICRC donated enough medical supplies to treat between 50 and 100 injured patients to al-Birr private hospital in Homs. It also donated anaesthetic drugs, wound-dressing materials and intravenous fluids to al-Amin private hospital. In addition, the ICRC carried out an assessment of a health-care facility in Bab Amr, currently being renovated by the Ministry of Health, with a view to possible future assistance.
On 21 October, a Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteer died after being caught in the fighting on his way to work in Harasta, Rural Damascus. The following day, another two volunteers were injured in separate incidents while on duty, also in Harasta. Under international humanitarian law, parties to an armed conflict must distinguish at all times between civilians and those involved in fighting.
Together with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the ICRC assessed needs in Jwalek, some 10 kilometres north west of Homs city. Jwalek has been playing host to hundreds of people who have fled armed confrontations in different parts of Homs in recent weeks. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent provided immediate assistance for around 400 people in desperate need of food and other essentials, including blankets and mattresses. It also provided schooling material for the children. "In Jwalek, as in many other places in the country, the situation of displaced people is desperate," said Ms Gasser. "A young displaced woman there could not hold back her tears as she told me that she had to take her newborn child and flee her home. She had already lost touch with the father before fleeing, and he has still not seen his daughter. She was very sad that she and her family would not be able to return home in time for the Eid al-Adha festivities."
The ICRC remains extremely concerned about the humanitarian situation in the country. Armed confrontations have had a particularly severe effect on the population of Homs, Aleppo, Idlib, Hama, Deir Ez-Zor, Damascus and Rural Damascus. The ICRC continues to enhance its field presence together with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, especially in the areas hardest hit by violence. Following the visit last month of its president, Peter Maurer, the ICRC has persevered in its humanitarian dialogue with the Syrian authorities, which it hopes will enable it to expand its support for medical services and to visit all persons detained in the country.
Since the beginning of the year, the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent have provided food for over a million people and essential household items for a quarter million people. They have also helped provide water for over a million people in the governorates of Damascus, Rural Damascus and Homs. For over a year and a half, Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers have been working around the clock in violence-stricken areas, often risking their lives to provide first aid, transfer the injured and otherwise help save lives. "Humanitarian needs have not stopped growing," said Ms Gasser. "While some progress has been achieved, more is needed to meet the most urgent needs on the ground."