Vehicles carrying humanitarian supplies wait at a crossing
point in Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr. REUTERS/George Ourfalian
The Red Cross has appealed for greater access to
civilians in rebel-held and besieged areas of Syria where the
humanitarian situation is "catastrophic", particularly in the
divided northern city of Aleppo and in suburbs of Damascus.
Basic services and infrastructure in Syria are near collapse
and the economy is at a standstill after three years of
conflict, with millions dependent on food and medical
supplies that are not reaching the most desperate, the aid
"The scale of the conflict in Syria is unprecedented, and the
stark truth is that there is no end in sight," Robert
Mardini, head of Near and Middle East operations at the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), told a news
"Hundreds of civilians are killed or wounded every day."
In the last few months, President Bashar al-Assad's forces
have conducted an aerial bombardment in Aleppo, dropping
barrel bombs from helicopters on rebel-held districts. Aleppo
is Syria's largest city and was once its business hub.
"Our priority is clearly Aleppo. We have a very substantial
plan of response for Aleppo that would include medical and
surgical aid but also food, non-food items, not only for
Aleppo city but Aleppo province," Mardini said, noting that
the ICRC was already helping to provide clean water in the
"This would cover needs of civilians in government-controlled
but also opposition-controlled areas including besieged areas
up north in Nubl and Zahra. For this we are still waiting for
the green light of Syrian government," he said.
The ICRC is currently providing food, water and other goods
to about 900,000 people in Syria each month, but it has not
been able to reach any besieged areas since visiting Barzeh
in the Rural Damascus district in February after a local
ceasefire, Mardini said.
"Indeed as the crisis is deepening, access is becoming a
challenge everywhere in Syria. The number of checkpoints is
increasing from point A to point B and this is a constant
challenge for our teams," he said.
LARGEST OPERATION WORLDWIDE
The independent agency, which now deploys 240 aid workers in
Syria, aims to step up operations in the country - already
its largest worldwide - to reach 1 million people monthly in
the second half of 2014. It aims to deploy an additional 75
It appealed on Thursday for a further 76 million Swiss francs
($86.6 million) to bring its budget for Syria this year to
139 million Swiss francs and overall budget for Syria and
neighbouring countries hosting 2.7 million refugees to 193
million Swiss francs.
The ICRC is seeking access to Moadamiyah and Douma in Rural
Damascus, "where we know there are very acute needs", he
Mardini said the ICRC was working to win acceptance for its
relief work from Islamic groups such as the Nusra Front and
al-Qaeda affiliated ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq) in the
"It remains a challenge to engage and to have a meaningful
dialogue. Because this is what we aim for at ICRC, not only
one-off contact, but one on which you can base our presence.
And acceptance for the groups you mentioned, this remains a
work in progress," he said.
"For other groups, things are going in the right direction,"
he said, mentioning the Free Syrian Army.