All of our lives are being affected by Covid-19 in some way, but those living in refugee camps or in makeshift settlements are particularly vulnerable.
We live in strange and challenging times. The Covid-19 outbreak is affecting everyone to some degree. Rightly, our priority is the health of our staff, volunteers and supporters. We encourage everyone to follow directives from government sources, stay safe and healthy.
Here in Australia, we are lucky: we are well-resourced and have a world-class health system; we are able to self-quarantine at home and care for ourselves and each other. But for people who are already homeless due to conflict or disaster and no access to healthcare, Corona virus is a new and deadly threat.
How can we help? Tents and shelter are now more important than ever to help people isolate themselves when they have lost their homes and help to limit the spread of Coronavirus. ShelterBox remains committed to reaching the most remote communities and to support them to get through the current outbreak.
Much of our protracted work is largely unaffected in the short-term: our work continues in Syria and Somaliland and upcoming projects in Cameroon and Ethiopia remain on course. Travel restrictions may affect our ability to respond to sudden-onset disasters, but we have aid strategically pre-positioned and our deployable roles are set-up to work remotely.
So, challenging times ahead; but as a disaster relief agency, we are determined to maintain and protect our ability to respond.
This month’s quote comes from Jimi Hendrix, “”Before you start pointing fingers, make sure your hands are clean.”
Many thanks for your support
CEO ShelterBox Australia
0459 959 501
Philippines – Typhoon Kammuri
A response team member demonstrates how to use a Luminaid solar light.
In early December Typhoon Kammuri, known locally as Typhoon Tisoy, ripped through the Philippines and many people across Northern Samar were severely affected. Coastal communities were hit the most and beaches were covered in the debris of destroyed homes. Electricity was wiped out, roads washed away and scores of fishing boats, the main source of livelihoods, were smashed to pieces.
Working through our Philippines office and local Rotary clubs, we supported over 2,500 families whose homes were either damaged or totally destroyed. NSW-based Response Team volunteer, Anthony Keating has recently returned from Northern Samar as part of a Monitoring Evaluation and Learning (MEAL) team.
The team undertook post-distribution monitoring activities, including surveys and conducting focus group discussions with communities who received a ShelterBox aid package. They were also able to evaluate the cash element of the project with communities who received a cash component.
Unfortunately, due to restrictions introduced by the Philippines due to Coronavirus, the team were unable to visit some of the communities where they had planned to undertake PDM activities. Due to this, the team departed early before areas of the Philippines entered a lock down period.
Somaliland – Drought
Ongoing drought and conflict have forced communities to move increasingly large distances to find fresh food for their animals, creating an estimated 2.6million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
The first phase of distributions to 1,200 households is now complete. A second phase is planned to support around 540 households, with the aid for the second phase currently in transit.
A team recently deployed to Somaliland to review the response and consider the changing context with our project partner ActionAid, as well as with the government and other humanitarian agencies. The team also joined a distribution of ShelterBox aid with the ActionAid team.
Syria – Conflict
The ongoing civil war in Syria has left over 13 million people in Syria in need of humanitarian assistance. In 2020, there has been renewed air-strikes and artillery incursions focused on the last rebel stronghold, Idlib. This has resulted in additional mass displacement of civilians fleeing from the violence in Idlib. A ceasefire has been in place since early March, which is currently still holding. Since 1st Dec 2019, it is reported that 950,000 people have been displaced.
ShelterBox has helped over 50,000 families fleeing the conflict and plans are well underway to support a further 4,233 households. Work will continue with our partners, Relief Aid and Bahar Organisation.
“We lost our livestock”, said 40-year-old Safiya as she sits next to her temporary house. Speaking to ActionAid, ShelterBox’s implementing partner in Somaliland, she said she had to carry their limp bodies from her home out to a field every time they passed away. The harshest drought to hit the Horn of Africa in two decades has killed off all of her sheep and goats. “Even our donkeys have died”, said Safiya.
Dharyaalay village in the eastern part of the Togdheer region of Somaliland, where Safiya had lived for the past 20 years, suffered from the most extreme drought in recent history. The drought resulted in hundreds of thousands of vulnerable rural communities in Somaliland losing their livelihoods.
“We’ve had droughts there in the past, but I don’t remember one as bad as the one that has forced me to become displaced”, said Safiya as she pointed towards her temporary house.
Safiya is living with hundreds of families in a camp for internally displaced people. She said they all agreed that they are used to seeing a shortage or lack of rain, but insist that they have never experienced one as hostile as the one that has killed their livestock and forced them leave their homes.
“We have no proper shelter. Until only recently have we been able to build a temporary house out of cartons and plastic bags”, she said.
Safiya has nine children, five daughters and four boys. They find it difficult to sleep in their current shelter. They either sleep outside under the stars, or together inside with no comfort or privacy.
“I have no choice, it’s me alone who is the head of the house and takes care of the children”. Her husband passed away four years before, but she gets some help from her relatives. With this help she manages to get the basic necessities of life including water and food. “Sometimes we don’t get enough money to buy batteries for the small torch we use for lighting”, said Safiya.
“We had two blankets only and we used to share them. Every night there were disputes as everyone needed a blanket to keep them warm. At times, I did not sleep day and night as my house was not protecting me from the cold and the two blankets were being used by my children. I used to worry whenever the sky collects clouds fearing the rain would smash my temporary house.”
In August 2019, Safiya collected a ShelterBox which contained two tarpaulins, rope, solar lights, mosquito nets, five blankets, a water filter and a kitchen set. Upon collecting the aid item, she said:
“This has helped my family a lot in getting light, giving enough blankets, and preventing security risks. Now I don’t have to worry as everyone has a blanket, the whole family can gather in one place and chat each with the help of the solar lights, thank you to those who donated this important kit.”
Support families affected by disaster and crisis. Please ………..
EFT: Bendigo Bank: ShelterBox Australia: BSB 633 000: Account no. 166 780 163 (please email firstname.lastname@example.org to notify us of your donation and receive your tax receipt).
Cheques can be mailed to: ShelterBox Australia, PO Box 254, Parramatta, NSW, 2124All donations above $2 are fully tax-deductible.
As nine months of bloody battle end in the routing of Islamic State resistance, aid agencies, including ShelterBox are standing by ready to support families who were trapped in a destroyed city
The long wait is over. Military reports indicate that the final enclaves of IS resistance in Mosul are now in retreat, signalling the end of the largest and longest urban battle anywhere on the earth since World War 2.
It is three years almost to the day that IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a Caliphate in the Iraqi city of Mosul, and since last October the UN estimates that 855,000 people have fled the city.
Emergency shelter experts, ShelterBox and its partner aid agencies, most based in the city of Erbil 50 miles from Mosul, have faced huge challenges in responding to one of the world’s most unpredictable sieges – not knowing when people would flee, in what numbers, and in which direction. Displacement camps in the area have long been over capacity, so ShelterBox has tailored much of its aid to be highly portable, meeting the needs of families on the move in this hostile environment.
There are reports that as many as 100,000 people remain in Mosul, no longer held under IS control as human shields, but undoubtedly traumatised from years of warfare, starvation, and living without power, healthcare or fresh water. Those civilians who managed to escape have been rescued, hungry and severely shell-shocked. How many remain huddling in bombed-out buildings in daytime temperatures of 50° daytime is unknown.
Near Mosul, ShelterBox has worked with partners ACTED to:
- Support 8,000 households / 40,000 individuals since the start of the offensive in October 2016 (5,682 households have been sheltered, additional households received individual items).
- We have around 3,000 kits standing by now to be distributed when needed.
- Our aid offer is adjusted with the changing seasons. Iraq is subject to extremes of temperature, over 50° c in summer, and below freezing in winter.
A ShelterBox team is in Erbil now making plans to respond to whatever displacement is triggered by the military endgame. Operations Coordinator Sam Hewett says, ‘Although we have prepared for this stage over many months, it is still unpredictable in size and scale. We don’t yet know exactly how many tens of thousands remain in Mosul, what their needs are, and whether they can be met by staying in Mosul. The Old City has suffered extensive damage, with little power or water infrastructure surviving. While relative peace is to be welcomed, we are also concerned about underlying tensions in the region and what they mean for longer-term stability.’
‘ShelterBox and its partners will have to act quickly but cautiously in responding to this latest phase in a very long story.’
Meanwhile ShelterBox continues its five-year intervention in Syria, where the city of Raqqa is the focus of a final military offensive. ShelterBox is not able to act here directly with teams on the ground because of the volatile and dangerous security environment, working instead through implementing partners such as Hand in Hand for Syria and ReliefAid. Other partners cannot be named for security reasons.
ShelterBox has been responding to this conflict since 2012, providing shelter and lifesaving items to households in neighbouring countries Jordan (2012, 2013), Iraq (2013-2017) and Lebanon (2012, 2013) and to families transiting through the Greek islands (2015). In Syria itself a total of 24,404 households have been supported. Now ShelterBox is gearing up for its biggest ever single aid push into Syria. Details of locations and routes cannot be given because ShelterBox must do all it can to protect its people and its partners.
In 2016 across Iraq and Syria ShelterBox aid reached an estimated 230,000 people.
You can help those displaced b y conflict by donating here: PLEASE DONATE
‘I support ShelterBox and the crucial work they do. Shelter and togetherness are stepping-stones to recovery.’ Dame Judi Dench on World Refugee Day
On the UN’s World Refugee Day (20th June) one of the world’s most famous Oscar-winners has given her backing to an agency that has helped hundreds of thousands of displaced people. Dame Judi Dench has generously endorsed the work of ShelterBox, saying that in a world on the run from disaster, ‘ShelterBox brings hope.’
Dame Judi Dench is celebrated from Hollywood to Broadway to the West End. She has followed the work of international disaster relief agency ShelterBox for several years. Tomorrow is World Refugee Day, held every year on 20 June, when the United Nations commemorates the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees.
ShelterBox is an international charity that provides emergency shelter to families who have lost their homes through conflict and natural disaster. The charity is currently responding to refugee crises in Cameroon, Niger, Chad, Syria and Iraq. A team will also shortly be heading to Uganda, which has the world’s largest refugee camp at Bidi Bidi, home to 800,000 people, many fleeing war in South Sudan. ShelterBox works hard to understand the need created by differing emergency situations, and has created a flexible range of aid that includes tools, tents and tarpaulins for families to make urgent shelter or repair buildings where there is no other possible provision. The aid can be used to create a temporary base in communities or refugee camps, but it is also light and portable for people moving from one place to the next.
Dame Judi has supported ShelterBox in the past, and donated a signed and framed theatre poster for sale in 2011. Now, with World Refugee day being promoted by the United Nations next week, she has again expressed her support.
Dame Judi says, ‘When disaster strikes and families are left with nothing, ShelterBox brings hope. Responding to each situation individually, ShelterBox gives tailor-made support – a place to live, equipment to cook with and to purify water, mosquito nets in the summer, scarves and blankets in the winter and SchoolBoxes to provide young people with the stability of the classroom.’
Right now there are 85 million people worldwide on the move, forced to flee their towns and villages by conflict, or natural disasters such as earthquakes, landslides, flooding and cyclones. Hardworking volunteers in the ShelterBox warehouse pack the boxes, which are then delivered to some of the most remote and dangerous places on earth by our dedicated ShelterBox Response Teams.’
‘I support ShelterBox and the crucial work they do all over the world helping families who have lost everything. Shelter and togetherness are stepping-stones to recovery. If you are able, please give what you can via www.shelterboxaustralia.org.au ‘‘
All donations above $2 are tax-deductible, please give generously.
ShelterBox partners, Hand In Hand For Syria continue to reach desperate families displaced by the conflict in Syria. In recent days they have been trucking in supplies to urban collective centres that are housing families who quit the mountain town of Madaya, scene of the notorious ‘starvation siege’ which saw around 40,000 residents trapped by a military stand-off. For over a year they lived only on meagre rations of rice delivered in occasional aid convoys. When the siege broke last October children and the elderly were showing the effects of famine and could barely walk straight. Months without meat or milk had seen many making soup out of grass in the search for nutrition.
Now, although they are being fed and are relatively safe, they find themselves pawns in a relocation deal between rebels and the government. Hand in Hand aid workers have been shipping in ShelterBox mattresses, cooking equipment, water carriers, blankets and other basic items to families in the appointed collective centres, and to those staying nearby with friends and relatives or with host families.
Photos show the desperate clamour for this aid as people queue, some making precarious onward journeys overloading bikes and vans.
Another aid drop in recent days has seen tents distributed to a timeworn displacement camp in Idlib Governorate. The climate of extreme temperatures takes its toll on canvas, and many of these threadbare tents have standing in the open for years. ShelterBox and Hand in Hand have now arranged for some to be replaced.
ShelterBox Operations Coordinator Sam Hewett says, ‘79 tents were distributed to replace broken tents. I don’t know how long they’d been living there – it varies between a few months to years. The Hand in Hand team has a network, either they are asked directly by a local council, or the shelter aid cluster notifies them. Then HiH do an assessment and confirm exact numbers, and decide whether it is appropriate to respond.’
You can help those displaced in Syria and other countries by donating here:
ShelterBox and its partners are helping displaced families cope with the grim realities of life under canvas, in the cold and mud, with only basic amenities. These battle-weary people, formerly residents of a thriving city, now need every kind of aid imaginable – even lighting, children’s clothes, and sewing kits.
We all breathed a sigh when we saw families being bused out of Aleppo just before Christmas. For them, at least, the fear of daily thirst, starvation and bombings was over. But now aid workers are finding that displacement is bringing other severe hardships.
Farid, a Syrian staff member with ShelterBox partner ReliefAid, says, ‘I am deeply shocked by the living conditions of the camps where Aleppo families are now living. Even coming from East Aleppo where the destruction was huge and the humanitarian situation dire, the situation in the camps is worse. I have not seen anything like this before. No toilets, no water, mud everywhere.’
It takes a lot to shock aid workers in Syria, particularly former residents of Aleppo. Farid and his ReliefAid colleagues had seen their office bombed, and one of their team gunned down as he worked on a rooftop. But now, having quit their home city, razed to the ground by years of warfare, they have followed their neighbours into dozens of makeshift displacement camps dotted across the desert.
True, they are now out of the line of fire. But in every other way conditions could hardly be more harsh. Mike Seawright, Founder and Executive Director of ReliefAid, has worked in partnership with UK-based ShelterBox throughout the Syrian civil war, distributing its aid in some of the most dangerous territory on earth. Mike says, ‘People forced from their homes in Aleppo City are now having to live in freezing conditions surrounded by mud and water.’
‘They are joining families who have been living under the intense heat of summer and freezing winter conditions, including snow and ice, for five seasons. People have escaped one hell only to be caught in another.’
‘Families are now living in tents, having lost loved ones, with no idea how they will keep themselves warm at night. Without our collective support people will literally not survive.’
The ReliefAid team and ShelterBox are now gearing up to provide more aid to Syria’s displacement camps throughout March. They are concentrating on settlements in Idlib Governorate, particularly fifteen informal camps. The families here have been displaced from Aleppo over months, including in December’s exodus, and from areas in the south of the country.
Mike adds, ‘As you can see from our photos living conditions are very difficult. These smaller informal camps have been largely ignored as aid organisations look to provide assistance to sites that are easier to access and allow faster distribution. Families in these informal camps have significant needs which our next distribution is looking to address.’
ShelterBox is providing 5,000 blankets and mattresses to help combat the cold, 4,000 sets of children’s clothing, and 4,000 pairs of jeans and jumpers. 1,000 tarpaulins are included for waterproofing tents and buildings, and 4,000 20 litre water carriers. Then there are the less expected items – solar lamps for safety in the dark desert nights, hammers and fixings, duct tape and rope.
Without the financial means to purchase new clothing and tents, repairing them is an essential task in camp life. So the inclusion of 1,000 sewing kits means that families can make their precious materials last as long as possible.
ShelterBox’s Sam Hewett says, ‘Wherever you look in this region displaced families are living threadbare existences in uncomfortable conditions. These aid items bring some relief, particularly to the vulnerable, the young, the elderly. We will continue to source partnerships and aid routes that can find them, whether they have settled in large camps or small ad hoc encampments.’
You can help by donating here: PLEASE DONATE
Displaced families in Syria are in peril in their desperation to keep warm. Last week a makeshift kerosene heater exploded at the Bab Salama camp in north Aleppo, burning down two tents and injuring the occupants. UK agency ShelterBox is sending safer heaters into northern Syria.
Idleb in northern Syria is host to hundreds of thousands of families fleeing war, most of them now in vast displacement camps. But the area is also in the grip of an icy winter, with night-time temperatures as low as -9 degrees centigrade.
Some families are huddling in draughty single-room shelters constructed from concrete with tin roofs, with no source of heating and no windows. Others are living under canvas. So, the temptation is to improvise, to burn wood, or to make basic heaters out of tin cans, with naked flames and noxious fumes. The dangers are obvious, and spontaneous fires are frequent in this daily battle against the cold.
So, to minimise fire-related tragedies while warming young hands, UK aid agencies ShelterBox and its in-country partner Hand in Hand for Syria have just distributed 1,000 high-spec kerosene heaters to families in Idleb.
ShelterBox Operations Coordinator Sam Hewett will shortly be travelling to the region to check on the charity’s aid programmes in Syria.
Sam says, ‘We typically provide items to help insulate people against the cold. But it’s not always enough, as people need a source of heat as well. By providing heaters such as these people are able to get some comfort and undertake basic household activities such as cooking.’
‘But it also helps to prevent diseases—particularly those related to long-term exposure to cold and damp conditions and noxious fumes—that they would be exposed to from using improvised stoves.’
The 1,000 Diora kerosene cooker/heaters come supplied with fuel, and the families are shown how to use them safely and with proper ventilation.
You can help those displaced by the conflict in Syria by donating to our Syria Refugee Appeal here:
They have been on the most terrifying of journeys unaware that the world was watching. Now thousands of the children of Aleppo have reached relative safety, been given warm clothing, their families receiving aid from disaster relief charity ShelterBox and its partners
At one point these are the photos we thought we’d never see. Thousands of Aleppo families bussed out of the world’s most war-ravaged city to be greeted at displacement camps, and given clothing and other aid that has waited at a tantalising distance for months.
These images just received at ShelterBox’s Cornwall HQ show aid workers from in-country partner, London-based Hand in Hand for Syria, greeting the most vulnerable of the exodus from Aleppo. The aid shown is hats and scarves – essential as it has started to snow in the region – and other non-food items supplied by ShelterBox. It is part of an ongoing programme to help families displaced by the Syrian civil war.
ShelterBox Operations Co-ordinator Sam Hewett says, ‘The fighting in and around Aleppo that has been broadcast in recent weeks is indicative of the intolerable position that people throughout Syria are forced to endure.’
Due to the support of our generous donors, ShelterBox has been able to support people as they are evacuated from the city with items such as clothing and bedding, to shelter them from the cold winter conditions. This would not be possible without the presence of our partner organisations, whose staff share the same fatal risks as the people they are trying to help.’
Hand in Hand for Syria’s team are reported to have all escaped Aleppo over the weekend, and the last of New Zealand-based ReliefAid’s team of 40 Aleppo residents has just been reported safely evacuated.
The actual locations of this latest aid distribution are being withheld for security reasons.
You can help by donating here: Please Donate
Syria seems the very opposite of safety or sanctuary. But as aid agencies in Iraq steel themselves for a possible outpouring from Mosul, ShelterBox and its partners find that even Syrian camps are now becoming boltholes for families on the run.
Mosul in Iraq, home to over a million civilians, now trapped by an intense battle to reclaim the last ISIS stronghold in the country. At any point, in any numbers, in any direction, hundreds of thousands could suddenly be on the run from warfare.
Some 80,000 civilians have fled Mosul and nearby areas so far, and the United Nations is preparing for a worst-case scenario in which more than a million people are made homeless as winter descends. ‘Children and their families in Mosul are facing a horrific situation. Not only are they in danger of getting killed or injured in the cross-fire, now potentially more than half a million people do not have safe water to drink,’ said UNICEF’s Iraq representative Peter Hawkins.
Now reports from a partner organisation distributing ShelterBox aid in Hasake Governorate point to significant numbers fleeing east from Mosul into Syria. New Zealand based ReliefAid is one of ShelterBox’s long-standing distribution partners in Syria. Likewise London-based Hand in Hand for Syria, delivering ShelterBox tents and warm clothing to Syrian displacement camps (see photo), also finds some beneficiaries are from Mosul.
ReliefAid Executive Director Mike Seawright says, ‘We recently completed our ShelterBox distribution in Syria’s North Eastern Hasake Governorate, bordering Iraq. We were supporting a refugee camp in which 80% of the families were from Mosul or surrounding areas.’
This is a constantly changing situation, but ReliefAid reports that thousands of families from Mosul have recently found crossing the border into Syria preferable to taking their chances in Iraq. This is counter-intuitive, a turning of the human tide, which is forcing families from one dire situation into another.
And now the military offensive on Raqqa in Syria is creating another dynamic. Mike Seawright adds, ‘The offensive against ISIS in Raqqa is displacing more civilians into Hasake Governorate. Initial reports are that displaced families have been arriving into camps in the North of Syria over the last few days. These numbers are expected to increase as the military action gains momentum. Combined with the Mosul offensive unmet humanitarian needs, including shelter, are expected to continue to increase dramatically within the Governorate.‘
All ShelterBox partners in Syria and Iraq – ReliefAid, Hand in Hand for Syria, ACTED and new associates Czech-based People in Need – deliver life-saving aid to communities under fire, working in some of the most dangerous places on earth, security issues dictating discretion and a low profile.
Alongside ongoing work inside Syria, ShelterBox has been preparing for whatever Mosul will create in terms of humanitarian need. Via ACTED households in Northern Iraq have already received basic shelter-related kits from ShelterBox, and tents and aid are prepositioned ready to deploy as families are displaced from the fighting. 1,000 beneficiary households in Ninewa and Erbil Governorates will receive first line shelter support. Thousands of lightweight tents are also on standby, for use in agreement with Shelter Cluster leads.
ShelterBox’s Rachel Harvey has just ended a deployment to Iraq, including a field visit to locations in Ninewa province where aid convoys have to pass through several military checkpoints. Rachel said of this journey, ‘The close proximity of the fighting is really striking. One minute you are drinking coffee in a hotel, an hour and a half later you are driving through an obliterated village on your way to deliver aid to people displaced by a conflict you can hear being waged on the horizon. The distance between peace and relative prosperity, and the devastation of war is frighteningly short.’
Response Team volunteer, Jack Bailey is still in Iraq training partners in use of the charity’s aid. Jack says, ‘Our preparedness is the result of months of planning, and of course the generosity of our donors. But, however much notice we have had of a Mosul displacement, there are still many unknowns. We will have to respond as events unfold, and look to our supporters to help us meet the demand.’
ReliefAid has had to make the difficult decision to move its current winter aid distribution to the Idlib countryside as a result of the terrible situation in Aleppo City. Continued attacks against civilians, extreme medical shortages, zero access to humanitarian assistance and severe food shortages are causing the already dire living situation to deteriorate rapidly.
Aleppo, Mosul, now Raqqa. ShelterBox and its international partners stand ready to help families on the run from war wherever it is safe to do so. But this region will soon be in the grip of an icy winter, with storms and freezing overnight temperatures a real threat to families trapped in ruined cities, fleeing across desert or up into the mountains.
Aleppo residents have ‘no food, no water, and no hope’. ShelterBox aid partner – ‘How could the world stand by as our people are killed?’
As the UN warns that east Aleppo may become a ‘giant graveyard’, local aid workers from ShelterBox’s partner organisation have spoken of their fears from within the war-ravaged city to ReliefAid’s Mike Seawright.
ShelterBox aid partner ReliefAid has a team in Aleppo, trapped with their families in the bombarded city. In recent months ReliefAid had its offices destroyed by bombing, and they lost one team member to a sniper’s bullet.
Despite this being arguably the most dangerous place on earth to be an aid worker, the ReliefAid team has given up chances to leave East Aleppo, deciding to remain, providing humanitarian assistance to their neighbours and the most vulnerable. Their brave efforts have seen life-saving ShelterBox support provided to over 36,000 people this year, as well as winter clothing for children. But now their Executive Director says, ‘Their future and their lives are hanging by a thread.’
On Wednesday top UN envoy Stephen O’Brien warned that Aleppo risks becoming ‘one giant graveyard’ and pleaded with UN Security Council members to protect civilians ‘for the sake of humanity’. An estimated 25,000 people have been displaced, he added, while in some areas people are so hungry they are reduced to scavenging.
After this sudden escalation ReliefAid’s Mike Seawright managed to contact his team in the city. He says that their greatest feeling is one of ‘Fear of being killed, or injured with no medical care.’
East Aleppo has as estimated 275,000 people living in it. Needs are immense for families in cold winter conditions. Medical services are all but defunct following sustained attacks against hospitals and healthcare workers, and families have been forced onto the streets by the fighting.
People in some areas are now huddling in public buildings and former schools. Mike adds, ‘Our team reports a desperate situation with families having no security, no food, no water, and no hope. For civilians caught in the extended siege, having experienced intensive daily air strikes, the escalation in ground fighting is becoming too much to bear.’
In a telling part of the conversation, Mike asked his aid colleagues what messages they would like to give to the international community. The reply was, ‘Forgive me, but we have no messages. How could the world stand by as our people are killed?’
Mike says of one of his Aleppo-based aid workers, ‘He has not slept for two days, has already lost significant weight as a result of the ongoing siege and now is wondering what, if any, future lies ahead. When talking to him about the situation I am often rendered speechless as I try to provide some level of practical or emotional support. What do you say to someone who thinks his future contains only death or imprisonment?’
Mike adda that Aleppo citizens have lost faith in the international community, seeing themselves as pawns in a regional and international game. He adds, ‘The Syrian Government appears to be pushing to finish the game. Having already had one staff member killed by a sniper we are deeply worried about our team in Aleppo.’