Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 8 July 2020

War and coronavirus have brought Syria 'to its knees'

Red Cross head Robert Mardini says prospects for millions of Syrians are even worse than before

Robert Mardini, director-general of the International Committee of the Red Cross, at the organisation's headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on May 31, 2018 / EPA
Robert Mardini, director-general of the International Committee of the Red Cross, at the organisation's headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on May 31, 2018 / EPA

A decade of war, compounded by the coronavirus crisis, has brought the whole Syrian population “to its knees”, the director general of the International Committee of the Red Cross says.

Robert Mardini told The National as leaders met at a Brussels donors’ conference for Syria that economic deprivation and the coronavirus outbreak have added to the war to make a desperate situation in Syria even worse.

“A really dramatically deteriorating economic situation that you are seeing now is hitting hard all segments of the population,” Mr Mardini said.

“Then you add to this the impact of extended sanctions, the simmering Covid crisis, and let us not forget that there is still fighting going on in many parts of the country.

“All this is pushing people towards deeper poverty and hunger, and over the past three months we have really witnessed a deteriorating situation in Syria affecting many, many people."

Displaced Syrian children and their parents attend a workshop on Covid-19 organised by medical volunteers at a camp near the town of Atme, close to Syria’s border with Turkey. AFP    
Displaced Syrian children and their parents attend a workshop on Covid-19 organised by medical volunteers at a camp near the town of Atme, close to Syria’s border with Turkey. AFP    

The figures paint a bleak picture of the situation for Syrians with 11 million people dependent on humanitarian assistance and 3.9 million with insecure food supplies.

The figures are the legacy of a decade of war but problems continue to mount with 300,000 Syrians in the past month registering with the government for humanitarian assistance.

The online conference in Brussels, which concludes on Tuesday, has examined the prospects of a lasting ceasefire and a political solution to the conflict, and looked to address the humanitarian need of Syrians, the EU said.

Last year the third Brussels Conference raised a record €6.2 billion (Dh25.61bn/$6.97bn) in pledges for 2019, and a further €2.1bn for 2020 onwards.

Mr Mardini said it was a positive that the conference was going ahead but humanitarian organisations were fighting an uphill battle as Syrians and donor countries dealt with the coronavirus.

Volunteers deliver aid at a camp for displaced Syrians near the town of Deir al-Ballut, by the border with Turkey, in Syria's Afrin region in the northwest of the rebel-held side of the Aleppo province on April 14, 2020 during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.  AFP
Volunteers deliver aid at a camp for displaced Syrians near the town of Deir al-Ballut, by the border with Turkey, in Syria's Afrin region in the northwest of the rebel-held side of the Aleppo province on April 14, 2020 during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.  AFP

“It is a challenge, of course, because at the moment the international community is grappling with a pandemic of massive proportions, hitting hard all countries including donor countries so it is even more challenging than previous Syria pledging conferences,” he said.

The ICRC and its partners have had to adapt to the realities of Covid-19 in countries where resources were already in short supply.

At Syria’s Kurdish-run Al Hol camp in north-east Syria, medical facilities have had to adapt to deal with the disease and daily meals are taken to women and children directly to avoid crowded queues.

In the central jails in which the Red Cross works, its water programme has been increased to ensure inmates have access to wash their hands.

“Detention centres are typically the kind of places where any outbreak or any spread of disease is higher than anywhere else," Mr Mardini said.

"The camps such as Al Hol and anywhere else in the country are also places of vulnerability."

He has urged the international community to find a political solution to the conflict or at least to allow better access to international organisations.

Mr Mardini said it was important that countries exerted their influence to ensure international humanitarian law was respected.

Updated: June 30, 2020 03:17 AM

SHARE

SHARE

Editor's Picks
THE DAILY NEWSLETTER
Sign up to our daily email
Most Popular