Kiwi humanitarian organisation ReliefAid chief speaks out after one of his Aleppo aid colleagues was killed by a sniper. With a cessation of hostilities having come into effect on Monday ‘we call on all parties to take up this unique opportunity for peace.’
A little over a week ago aid worker Karam died from a sniper’s bullet after working on the roof of ReliefAid’s office in southern Aleppo. Now, with a tense and fragile ceasefire underway, his colleagues are calling on ‘all parties to take up this unique opportunity for peace.’
Executive Director of ReliefAid, Mike Seawright, describes the circumstances of the death of one of his aid team in Aleppo on Sunday 4 September.
‘It was at our ReliefAid office in Al Zubdia neighbourhood. Karam was part of our team for the last year, conducting our neighbourhood aid distributions. After our previous office had been wrecked during an air strike he was fixing the water tank on the roof of the new office when he was shot by a sniper. Karam was rushed to the local hospital where he underwent six hours of surgery, unfortunately succumbing to his injuries. His family and our team buried him the next day in a local neighbourhood garden.’
Karam (name changed for security reasons) leaves a wife and three daughters in East Aleppo (2, 7 and 10 years old), two sons in Lebanon (20 and 18 years old). He also had family in Government controlled West Aleppo.
Mike Seawright adds, ‘The local neighbourhood gardens used to be places where children play. Now they are graveyards, filled by the very community to whom they used to bring solace and tranquillity.’
Since December 2015, New Zealand humanitarian organisation ReliefAid in partnership with UK charity ShelterBox has provided shelter aid to over 24,500 people in Aleppo City. The kits they provide to families are a mix of life-saving essentials including water purification equipment, jerry cans, mats, solar lamps, tarpaulins, mosquito nets and kitchen sets.
‘Delivering aid in war zones presents many challenges, and while we accept the risks associated with this work it is a complete shock to us when we lose one of our own. Karam’s humanitarian ethos and efforts supported the delivery of life-saving support to tens of thousands of people living in East Aleppo, the most war-torn city in the world.
He represented the very best of Syria, where communities help communities, families help families and Syrians irrespective of background help one another.’
‘Inspiringly while the death of our friend and work mate has saddened us, our teams aware of the risks they face, unanimously and without pause, continued our life-saving work.
I am constantly motivated by a team that even in the face of personal danger and loss, continue to support their communities. Families continue to experience acute needs within the city, and our teams are ready to assist those in dire need.’
A nationwide ceasefire in Syria, brokered by the United States and Russia, came into effect on Monday evening, with aid agencies preparing to send food and medical supplies to besieged Aleppo. Turkish sources said over thirty aid trucks, under UN supervision, were ready to deliver humanitarian supplies to the city.
‘In a war which is targeting civilians and humanitarian workers on a daily basis, we welcome the recent cessation of hostilities. If held the ‘cease-fire’ will have a positive impact on over one million people living in Aleppo City. On behalf of Syrian families living in what can only be described as ‘hell on earth’ we call on all parties to take up this unique opportunity for peace.’
Moving tributes were also paid by Karam’s work colleagues.
‘He was so kind to me, he would take me to his house to eat cooked food as I am single and don’t know how to cook.’
‘We lose friends every day. This is not the first time but we are feeling so bad. There is no escape, this is our life.’
‘I want only one thing, I want to die in dignity on my ground. I can’t see any more children die in bad ways as the world sits idly by watching.’
NOTES FOR EDITORS
- Photos above, showing aid distribution in Aleppo, can be used in the context of this press release © ReliefAid and ShelterBox
- Comms and security issues mean we cannot offer interviews with ReliefAid workers within Aleppo, but it you can connect with Mike Seawright, ReliefAid’s Executive Director ([email protected], skype: mike.seawright, +64 21 0363695).
If you would like to support our work please visit us at Donate Now …