The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer is in Syria to assess the humanitarian situation and press for greater humanitarian access.
The president has seen first-hand the harsh living conditions many people in Syria are facing today. In Rural Damascus, thousands have been displaced in recent months due to fighting and now live in extremely precarious conditions. In Sehnaya, a town visited by Mr. Maurer, hundreds of families who fled the violence in nearby Derraya live in six unfinished buildings. Trying to stay warm during the winter months is a struggle despite the support provided from the local branch of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), as there is no fuel, electricity or adequate insulation from the cold.
"I was keen to come here to see the real situation of the internally displaced," said president Maurer.
Mr. Maurer visited children trying to learn in an improvised classroom in one of the unfinished buildings as well as a SARC clinic, also in Sehnaya.
The ICRC together with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent has distributed food to over 3.5 million people and.supported local water boards to provide safe drinking water to over 20 million people in Rural Damascus and elsewhere in Syria. However, Mr Maurer remains concerned about the challenges the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent face to provide humanitarian relief impartially:
"One of the difficulties is having access and security to all parts of Syria. This is just as important as money, but indeed we hope that more donors will support our activities in the future.”
The President has also met with and paid tribute to the work of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) volunteers. Together with the SARC, the ICRC has distributed mattresses, blankets, and other household essentials to millions of Syrians in need.
Mr Maurer also met government officials in Damascus. He explains: “I have come to Syria in order also to talk to the representatives of the government of Syria and to see ways and means to increase our operation because it is clearly our analysis that the needs today are much bigger than are ability to assist people.”
The ICRC president will travel on to a major international conference on Syria in Kuwait on 15 January.
Facts and Figures
In 2013, the ICRC was able to assist millions of civilians affected by the conflict in Syria. This assistance includes:
Format: PAL SD 16/9
Producer: Anda Alkhatib, Jean Milligan, Nicola Fell
Camera: Wasim Zawbaid
ICRC ref: AV142N Syria President
Date: 12-13 January 2014
Copyright: ICRC access all
0:00 Outside shots of squats for displaced people in Sehnaya, Syria with ICRC President and SARC volunteers.
0:23 ICRC President visiting inside a squat
0:28 ICRC President speaking with a resident of the squat and the harsh conditions they must endure
Syrian says: “Actually at the moment it is not possible there” (to return home)
translated by ICRC colleague
0:42 Shot of makeshift heating arrangement inside squat
0:47 ICRC President speaking with children outside the squat
0:55 SOUNDBITE Peter Maurer, president of ICRC (in English)
"Certainly very keen to come here to see the real situation of the internally displaced. I have come to Syria also so that together with the SARC, the ICRC can see how we can better help this population."
01:12 SOUNDBITE Peter Maurer, president of ICRC (in English):
"There is always the hope that we will have at this donor conference more countries supporting the relief activities in Syria. One of the difficulties as we all know is also having access and security to all parts of Syria. This is just as important as money, but indeed we hope that more donors will support our activities in the future."
0:1:41 president walking
0:1:49 ICRC cars driving past damaged buildings
0:1:54 Opening shot with child pans to the ICRC President leaving a school
0:2:00 SOUNDBITE Peter Maurer, president of ICRC (in English)
"I have come to Syria in order also to talk to the representatives of the government of Syria and to see ways and means to increase our operation because it is clearly our analysis that the needs today are much bigger than are ability to assist people."