Civilians still trapped in Homs
Geneva/Damascus (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is very concerned that the suffering experienced by the civilian population in Homs is being exacerbated by the fact that aid is still not reaching them. Yesterday, a joint ICRC and Syrian Arab Red Crescent team was prevented from entering the city's worst-hit areas.
"After a week-long effort, our contacts initially led to an agreement with the authorities as well as an understanding with various opposition groups on a pause in fighting intended to enable our staff to evacuate civilians as well as the sick and the wounded, and to deliver medical aid," said Béatrice Mégevand-Roggo, the ICRC's head of operations for the Near and Middle East. "On the spot, however, agreed-upon conditions were not met and the staff were unable to proceed."
The ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent are virtually the only humanitarian organizations working in the hardest-hit areas in the country, and safe and unhindered access is thus essential to their work. ICRC and Syrian Arab Red Crescent teams take considerable risks performing their tasks. "Sadly, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent has already lost four members on duty in recent months," said Ms Mégevand-Roggo.
Since the beginning of the year, the ICRC has distributed aid for some 400,000 people adversely affected by the violence. Overall needs are still significant, however, and far from being met. In accordance with international humanitarian law, the wounded and the sick must receive, to the fullest extent practicable and with the least delay, the medical care and attention they require, and all possible measures must be taken to facilitate their evacuation. The parties must also take all feasible precautions to protect the civilian population, including allowing civilians to move to safer areas.
For further information, please contact:
Bijan Farnoudi, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 21 80 or +41 79 536 92 59
Rabab Al-Rifaï, ICRC Damascus, tel: +963 993 700 847