Aleppo residents have ‘no food, no water, and no hope’. Aleppo based staff from Kiwi humanitarian organisation ReliefAid ask ‘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 Kiwi humanitarian organisation have spoken about their fears from within the war-ravaged city.
ReliefAid has a team in Aleppo – part of local population they serve, who are now trapped with their families in the bombarded city. In recent months ReliefAid has 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, ReliefAid workers have given up chances to leave East Aleppo, deciding to remain, providing humanitarian assistance to their neighbours and the most vulnerable. With the support of partner ShelterBox UK, their brave efforts have seen life-saving shelter materials provided to over 36,000 people this year, including winter clothing for children. But now ReliefAid’s Executive Director Mike Seawright says, ‘Their future and their lives are hanging by a thread.’
Yesterday 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 from rubbish bins.
After this sudden escalation Mike 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 an estimated 275,000 people living in it. Needs are immense for families living in extreme 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 team 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 adds 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 and their families in Aleppo.’
The conflict in Iraq such as the Mosul offensive is adding to the Syria’s humanitarian woes by displacing families into Syria, creating additional needs which are not being supported. As a regional indicator, it is particularly telling to see people displaced into Syria rather than out. The developing Raqqa offensive in North East Syria is also creating additional humanitarian needs.
Where will it all end and when will the international community find a solution to protect civilians caught in the middle of this horrendous war?
NOTES TO EDITORS
- Photos above, can be used in the context of this press release © ReliefAid and ShelterBox UK.
- Comms and security issues mean we cannot offer interviews with ReliefAid workers within Aleppo, but you can connect with Mike Seawright, ReliefAid’s Executive Director ([email protected] , skype: mike.seawright, +64 21 0363695).
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