Hand in Hand for Syria is the London-based charity that has worked for years with ShelterBox taking aid to families displaced by Syria’s civil war. Yesterday their team in Khan Sheikhoun were at the centre of the chemical weapon incident that has caused international outrage.
In recent weeks aid workers from Hand in Hand for Syria have worked across Idlib Governorate distributing shelter aid and equipment from UK-based ShelterBox. Yesterday they found themselves caught up in a chemical weapons incident that has killed at least 70 people in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, including 20 children, and horrified the watching world.
As well as acting as an in-country distributor of ShelterBox aid, Hand in Hand for Syria also runs six hospitals, health centres, mobile clinics, ambulances and other emergency vehicles.
Their Country Director Fadi Al-Dairi says, ‘One of our offices is in Khan Sheikhoun and we have two hospitals in the vicinity. After the chemical incident we saw over 70 cases, over 300 received treatment from other health actors operating in the area, and we transported quite a few to Turkey. Sadly eight were pronounced dead at our facilities.’
‘Whilst this is a tragic event, we fear the use of chemical attacks more often. We are very concerned about the safety of our team in the absence of any proper protection in place. The unavailability of gas masks, plastic overalls, plastic tents at each and every health facility means there is a risk of spreading contamination whilst trying to do good.’
The UN Security Council is meeting today in an emergency session called for by France and the UK as international outrage mounts over the incident. ShelterBox Operations Director Darren Moss says, ‘It is saddening that it takes an appalling incident, huge loss of life, innocent children suffering, and the apparent use of illegal weapons, to put the world’s focus back on Syria.’
‘ShelterBox has a long association with Hand in Hand for Syria and other partners in the region, and we are very concerned that they have to carry out their vital humanitarian work in such dangerous conditions. Our thoughts are with our brave aid colleagues, and with all those families suffering in this seemingly intractable war.’
Hand in Hand for Syria has been delivering aid to displacement camps across norther Syria, including those nearby Khan Sheikhoun. Thus far in 2017 ShelterBox aid has been provided to 3,430 households, and to over 20,000 families since the war began. ShelterBox supporters have funded around £2.5 million worth of aid over the last five years.
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