Syria: Six years of crisis, the challenge of our time, 2011 - 2017
Human Appeal gather cross-party support to mark six years of Syrian conflict
Human Appeal, a humanitarian aid charity based in Greater Manchester, held an event in Parliament yesterday (Monday 13th March) to highlight the sixth anniversary of the Syrian conflict. The event, in the River Room at the House of Lords, was co-hosted by Caabu (Council of Arab and British Understanding) and Conservative MP Crispin Blunt, Labour Peer Lord Dubs, Channel 4’s award-winning Syrian film maker and journalist Wa’ad al-Kateab and Human Appeal CEO Othman Moqbel.
At the event Human Appeal launched their report on the Syrian conflict, which was well received by all in attendance.
Wa’ad al-Kateab, whose footage throughout the conflict – especially during the Aleppo conflict – said “Each country wants to end the conflict their own way, but they don’t consider the civilians.” She commented on how many civilians in Syria see it as “worst to be captured by the regime than to be killed.”
The Lord Dubs, who came to the UK as a refugee himself in the 1930s and is a champion of the rights of refugee children, told the audience of parliamentarians, press and international development leaders “it was the massive wave of public opinion for child refugees that put pressure on the government to act.” Lord Dubs then encouraged everyone to approach their MPs or councils to do more to help child refugees of this and all conflicts.
Crispin Blunt MP, who is the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, commented “This is Britain’s largest ever response to a humanitarian crisis… turning a blind eye to the Syrian conflict is simply not an option.”
Othman Moqbel, CEO of the host organisation Human Appeal marked the organisation’s achievements as one of the leading aid organisations working in Syria throughout the conflict. “One of the last times I was in the region I visited one of the Human Appeal flour factories on the Turkey-Syria border. We have a huge operation there and last year I was proud to have the honour of taking two former DfID ministers, Andrew Mitchell and Clare Short to visit those factories, I hope to have the pleasure of taking some of the people here this evening too. Crispin and Alf, you are very welcome.
In the North of Syria, people rely on Human Appeal for their daily bread. We supply flour to bakeries across the region. Bread is the main staple in the Syrian diet and we are able to deliver it to 200,000 Syrians every month. Logistically this is a huge job, we require hundreds of workers: operatives in the factories, lorry drivers and bakers. But without it, there is no doubt that thousands, tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of Syrians would go hungry.
57% of health facilities in Syria and 51% of health centres are either closed or barely functional. This drove Human Appeal through, our Al-Imaan hospital in rural Aleppo, to provide maternity, gynaecological and paediatric health care to 20,000 Syrians every month. Our staff at the Al-Imaan hospital continued to provide the urgent care needed for the mothers, expectant mothers and children of Aleppo even during the siege. We continued even when our hospital and some of the schools we help run were the target of air strikes. We never gave up. Syrians need healthcare, Syrians need an education. We cannot give up on them.”
Chris Doyle, the chair of the evening’s events and director of the advocacy group Caabu spoke at the start of proceeding, “It should not be needed but it is as a reminder why we must make every effort, every effort, to end this conflict; achieve a political solution; and ensure that aid can and is delivered to all Syrians.
“I was in the Baka'a in Lebanon in January. The raw sewage did not stink as much as it does in the summer, but the cold and damp was biting. I actually met Walid, who Crispin and I met in a visit four years ago, in a different encampment. He was originally a refugee from the Golan. "I have lived in a tent all my life." He could only afford the bus fare for one of his 4 children to go school. He could not work, even illegally, due to ill health, the damp conditions of his shack, water leaking into his "bedroom." What are their choices? Their homes in Syria were gone. Go to Europe. Well I was in Kos last summer. I visited a cemetery where a little corner had been designated for the dead refugees. Many were unmarked. But what hit us - were the graves dug for those yet to drown. Above all I remember the children - children who often no longer, laugh, even speak or play.”
Wednesday March 15th will be the official anniversary of the conflict, which begun in 2011.