In Damascus, people continue to search desperately for safety with humanitarian needs growing as the situation in the city worsens and as large numbers of people flee their neighbourhoods in search of safe haven, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement in Geneva.
Civilians are seeking refuge with relatives and friends inside and outside Syria, in neighbouring countries like Lebanon. Their numbers are growing by the thousands every day. Many people have no one to turn to and are taking shelter in public buildings – in empty schools, often used by displaced people in various parts of Syria, and these days in Damascus as well.
Thousands of Syrians crossed into Lebanon on Thursday. Reports vary between 8,500 and 30,000 people having crossed in the past 48 hours, according to UNHCR.
“Because of the ongoing violence, various neighbourhoods in Damascus have been cut off from one another, and this is making it progressively more difficult for people to move,” said Marianne Gasser, head of the ICRC’s delegation in Syria. “Every day presents new challenges for people trapped in the midst of the fighting: they are finding it harder and harder to go out and buy daily necessities or even to leave their homes.”
Nearly 60 schools have now been opened in Rural Damascus to accommodate displaced families, most of whom are from the violence-affected areas of the city. According to internal estimates, over 11,800 people have sought shelter in these schools.
In Damascus itself, the ICRC is providing support for the Syrian Arab Red Crescent in preparing mobile health units, which will start serving several of the schools sheltering displaced people. Depending on the needs, more medical supplies will be provided. ICRC water engineers are monitoring the capacity of these schools to provide clean and drinkable water, with a view to maintaining acceptable levels of hygiene and sanitation.
Moreover, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent has started supplying 25 schools with relief items for those seeking shelter. The ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, in close cooperation with local communities, have started preparing thousands of food parcels, mattresses and hygiene kits: these will be dispatched over the coming days to those who have been displaced.
“The ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent’s humanitarian activities are urgently needed, and will continue, despite the precarious conditions,” ICRC said.