Despite the upsurge in fighting in Damascus and elsewhere in Syria over the past week, UNICEF is continuing to deliver essential aid and services to thousands of children and women.
The violence has forced large numbers of people to abandon their homes and seek safety elsewhere, sometimes with relatives, often in schools and mosques that have been opened for the purpose. It is to these locations that a large part of the relief effort mounted by UNICEF is being directed, working alongside a large number of local charitable organisations.
Last Wednesday, in coordination with UNRWA, UNICEF managed to deliver a truckload of essential non-food items to displaced families in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp – an area which has seen particularly heavy fighting. Recreation kits were also delivered.
“These supplies were delivered along with UNRWA medical items and were greatly welcomed by the people there,” said UNICEF Syria Deputy Representative, Eric Durpaire. “Great credit goes to our drivers and the rest of the team involved because they undertook this operation while heavy shelling was going on and at great personal risk.”
On Saturday, family packages, consisting of hygiene kits, baby kits and food, were sent to four schools housing displaced people. The supplies were sufficient for 1,200 families. Efforts to reach two other locations were unsuccessful due to the security situation.
UNICEF is also planning to deliver a full “family package” of hygiene and other supplies to some 10,600 people (mainly women and children) who are sheltering in up to 15 schools in different parts of Damascus. This number will be rapidly increased once serious logistical issues can be overcome.
Of these, apart from continuing concerns over security, transport is the most serious, as fuel is in increasingly short supply. For the time being, UNICEF relies on vehicles provided by the World Food Programme, NGO partners or private contractors.
“The situation is still evolving and security concerns for our staff and partners are a continuous challenge,” said UNICEF Syria Representative, Youssouf Abdel-Jelil. “But the needs among children and families displaced by the violence of recent days are enormous, whether in food, water and sanitation or other basic supplies. We are doing our utmost to respond, using whatever means we have at our disposal.”
Since January 2012, UNICEF and its partners in Syria have reached 190,000 people with humanitarian assistance, including more than 145,000 children. UNICEF’s humanitarian activities are undertaken in cooperation with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and a number of other partners. Currently, UNICEF has 25 national and five international staff on the ground in Syria.
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UNICEF is the world’s leading organisation working for children and their rights in more than 190 countries. As champion of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF works to help every child realise their full potential. Together with our partners, UNICEF delivers health care, nutrition, education and protection to children in urgent need, while working with governments to ensure they deliver on their promise to protect and promote the rights of every child. UNICEF relies entirely on voluntary donations from individuals, governments, institutions and corporations, and is not funded by the UN budget. For more information, please visit www.unicef.org.uk.