Struggle for children who fled Aleppo ‘just beginning’, warn aid workers

22 Dec 2016 by World Vision New Zealand
Struggle for children who fled Aleppo ‘just beginning’, warn aid workers
A ‘crisis within a crisis’ is unfolding in the countryside outside Aleppo as thousands who fled the city now face increasingly dire conditions, World Vision warns. 

We appeal for urgent funds as our staff distribute emergency supplies including blankets and mattresses, and prepare to support up to 100,000 people. 

Residents who evacuated west out of Aleppo are arriving at two reception centres, then relocated to villages and camps, the largest of which already has 60,000 people inside. But conditions are cramped, temperatures have plummeted, and security concerns and the risk of shelling remains.  

Chris Latif, World Vision’s Response Manager for Northern Syria, said: “The evacuation of Aleppo wasn’t the end of a crisis; for many children arriving in the countryside hungry and freezing cold, this is just the beginning. 

“As the evacuees slowly recover from the shock of their ordeal, we’re starting to hear harrowing stories from children who have seen their parents die right on front of them. The death and destruction they’ve witnessed is beyond belief, and no child should ever have to go through this. 

“Anyone who thought the evacuation of Aleppo was a solution needs to see the heart-breaking scenes children now face in these cramped, crowded and filthy conditions across the countryside. It’s as though a ‘crisis within a crisis’ is unfolding before us. 

“Aid workers are already stretched, and there are more people on the way – which is why we’re appealing urgently for funding to provide a lifeline for these new arrivals.” 

Shihab, a father who was evacuated from Aleppo, told World Vision about the struggle to leave the city. He said: “It was a chaos; the number of people was way too much for the buses. I didn’t manage to get into one before 5:30 am.

“I can’t describe how it was, there are no words to describe how we felt. There were a lot of families and children, no one was organizing anything. A lot of people got pushed around, sometimes beaten. 

“Later on in the night, it became too cold for us. To warm up, people started fires with their luggage, keeping only two sets of clothing with them. I was one of the people who burned their belongings just to feel a bit warm.”

In the countryside to the west of Aleppo, World Vision has so far distributed 2,500 blankets and 1,000 mattresses to 3,500 people or 700 families. Preparations are under way to provide thousands more, along with kerosene heaters, jerry cans and hygiene kits. 

Most former residents of Aleppo have nothing to return to as 40 per cent of the city is destroyed. 

Chloe Irvine, Head of External Affairs, World Vision New Zealand  |  ​+64 22 340 4271