Of all the families on the refugee trail these are the hardest to reach, and the hardest to help – Syria’s internally displaced, people caught in the crossfire within their own country. But aid is getting through, as ShelterBox and its partners deliver with determination.
The world watches hopefully as talks begin in Vienna, bringing to the table the power-brokers who are backing rival sides in Syria’s civil war. The aim is to close the gap between the US and its allies, who support the rebels, and the key foreign allies of the Syrian government, Russia and Iran. This is the first time that Iran has been involved in diplomatic moves towards conflict resolution.
Four years of war in Syria have left a quarter of a million dead, and forced half the country’s population – around 11 million people – from their homes. Hundreds of thousands of them now live under canvas in fast-growing encampments, mostly in the north of the country.
ShelterBox has been working across Syria and its geographical neighbours all this time, helping refugees and displaced families in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraqi Kurdistan and well into Syria itself. Getting aid into this volatile war zone has meant very careful negotiation of so-called ‘aid pipelines’, the discreet movement, distribution and allocation of equipment, and effective in-country partners who can operate cautiously in hostile conditions using their local knowledge.
Among these are London-based Hand in Hand for Syria (HIHS) who were the first to take humanitarian aid into Syria shortly after the conflict began in 2011. HIHS and ShelterBox have supported newly displaced people in northern Syria for over two years, and even managed to deliver school equipment into war-torn Aleppo. A new shipment of aid for a further 1,000 families is now being dispatched.
ShelterBox’s newest partner is the Violet Organisation, a Syrian non-governmental organisation shown in the photos accompanying this press release. 350 large UN specification tents and tarpaulins have been transported to Syria, bound for distribution in camps.
200 UN tents supplied by ShelterBox have also just been distributed by theInternational Organisation for Migration (IOM), mostly to replace those damaged by time and climate over the years of conflict.
Operations Co-ordinator Sam Hewett has recently returned from the Iraq / Syria border territories, where he and ShelterBox colleagues were assessing conditions in many long-established refugee camps, and helping to plan new provision for Iraq’s own internally-displaced population.
Sam says, ‘ShelterBox gives you a global perspective on the refugee crisis – from its origins within Syria, to border territories such as Iraq and Lebanon, and on into Europe where we were recently providing respite for thousands of families arriving on the Greek islands.’
‘At every stage these are stories of great hardship and desperation. The scale of it can overwhelm, so we focus on what is achievable, and where the aid provided by our generous donors can help best. As these photos show, our in-country partners make it possible for ShelterBox to reach those trapped within Syria, whose lives are uncomfortable, uncertain and unsafe.’
Air strikes across Syria have intensified in the last month as the Russians have flexed their air power. The UN says 120,000 people fled from Aleppo, Hama, and Idlib provinces between 5 and 22 October, the places where most Russian bombing has taken place and where Syrian Army ground pushes have occurred. The Russians claim that no civilians have been killed, but they have been using cluster munitions that western air forces shun for their indiscriminate effect.
It is estimated that almost half of Syria’s population has now been displaced, but that six million of them remain within Syria’s borders. Only those who cross borders are classed as refugees, and therefore entitled to the support of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. The internally displaced do not enjoy even that status.
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