Through its long-standing local partner, the International Blue Crescent (IBC), Malteser International is responding to the needs of about 6,500 internally displaced people (IDP) who have fled from the increasingly violent conflict in their home regions to Damascus.The relief measures are financed by private donations given to Malteser International and Germany's Relief Coalition and supported by Germany's Federal Foreign Office. On the occasion of his visit to the Malteser International headquarters, IBC’s Vice-President, Muzaffer Baca,reports on the situation on the ground:
Can you please give us an overview of the humanitarian situation on the ground?
According to the latest estimates, there are about 1.5 million IDPs inside Syria. They are in desperate need of the essential means to survive – shelter, food, medicine, clothing… The country is almost split in two parts – with the north controlled by the opposition forces and the south and the centres of the big cities controlled by government forces. More and more people are also fleeing to the neighbouring countries – Lebanon, Jordania, Iraq and Turkey – and looking for shelter in refugee camps or with host families. So, we will have to concentrate our relief measures on the IPDs in Syria as well as on the refugees in the bordering countries.
How do you proceed to provide emergency relief?
Actually, we provide more than 1,200 Syrian families in Damascus who had to flee the increasingly violent conflicts in their home regions with so-called start-up kits containing blankets, mattresses, towels, pillows and kitchen utensils as well as hygiene kits with soap, diapers and wound care ointment for babies. Fortunately, the situation in Damascus at present is stable enough to start now the distribution of these relief goods. During the escalation of the conflict a few weeks ago, the roads leading to the capital’s airport and to the suppliers’ warehouses were blocked due to clashes between the opposition and government forces. Now, as they had been opened again, we could finalise the procurement of all goods for this month on the local market
How do you choose the beneficiary families? How can you ensure that these are the neediest families?
The identification of the beneficiaries and the distribution of relief goods are organised in close cooperation with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC). All IDPs coming to Damascus have to be registered by SARC. It’s on the basis of these registration lists established by SARC that IBC staff is doing home visits and going from house to house in order to identify the neediest families. We concentrate these home visits on two of the poorest outskirt areas of the capital where up to four families or even more have to live together in one apartment. About 350 families have already been visited and checked up to now. These are mainly families where women have to ensure the survival of the family as there husbands were killed, families with elderly and sick people, as well as families with many children. Our main criterion is to give assistance to the poorest and most vulnerable people. The distribution of the start-up and hygiene kits is also done directly in the houses by our staff in order to guarantee that they are given to the poorest families.
What is the most striking experience you have had in your work on the ground?
With regard to nearly 17 months of continuous fighting and destruction, one should never forget the enormous human suffering in nearly each family, in each individual. Last week, our team in Damascus told me about a man who had fled to Damascus after his two brothers had been killed. He had come to the capital in a hired minibus – with the seven children of his first brother, the three children of his second brother, his five own children as well as his wife and the two wives of his two brothers. Now this man has to struggle for the survival of 15 children and three women. – And this is just one story of many, many others.
Interview: Petra Ipp-Zavazal
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