As the situation in Syria continues to deteriorate, it becomes increasingly difficult and dangerous for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in the region to carry out their lifesaving work.
On 25 January, Dr Abd-al-Razzaq Jbeiro, secretary-general of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and president of its Idlib branch, was shot and killed on the Halab-Damascus Highway. He was travelling in a vehicle clearly marked with the Red Crescent emblem.
Lack of respect for medical services
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has already called upon all those involved in the violence to respect and facilitate Red Crescent and Red Cross efforts to come to the aid of those in need. The call came when one Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteer died and two volunteers were injured after their ambulance came under fire in September 2011.
Last month Béatrice Mégevand-Roggo, the ICRC head of operations for the Near and Middle East, again voiced the ICRC’s concern about difficulties accessing medical care in Syria. She said: “There have been repeated reports of lack of respect for medical staff and facilities.
“Our partners in the Syrian Arab Red Crescent have been working around the clock to provide medical and food aid in particularly difficult and risky circumstances. Any delay or impediment in providing first aid could cost injured persons their lives.”
Protection in neutrality
The neutrality and impartiality of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement enables it to work in areas where many other agencies cannot – providing help to people solely on the basis of their needs and giving priority to the most urgent cases of distress.
Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers administer life-saving first aid to the injured. Like all medical personnel, they must be allowed to carry out their work in safety. Increasing the people in Syria’s knowledge of the Movement’s exclusively humanitarian aim – to bring aid in a fully impartial and neutral manner to people in need – will help reduce the dangers faced by staff and volunteers.
Funds from the British Red Cross’ Libya & Region Appeal are helping support the Syrian Arab Red Crescent in preparing a public awareness campaign to raise awareness in Syria about the Red Cross Movement’s emblem and fundamental principles, and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent’s role.