Geneva, 31 March 2017 – At the end of his third visit to Syria, and a week ahead of a high-level pledging conference in Brussels, the Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has repeated his plea for an end to the conflict.
“There is no future for Syria without a political resolution to this war. In the past six years, Syria has been brought to the brink of ruin. Hope for the future can only take root when the guns fall silent, and peace becomes the priority of all parties,” said Secretary General, Elhadj As Sy.
During his visit, Mr Sy visited al-Hisn, in Homs governorate and al Qutayfah in rural Damascus governorate.
“Homs is a very different place to the one I visited 12 months ago. Last year, what struck me was the deafening silence. Now, there are people on the streets trying to get back to some normalcy, though the absence of young men is noticeable,” said Mr Sy. “It was very clear to me, from the conversations I had, that people want to begin to rebuild their lives, and that they are looking to us for support.”
In the village of Al-Hisn, where people have slowly started to return following often prolonged periods of displacement, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and IFRC are supporting families to rebuild livelihoods. SARC provides families with livestock – in this case pregnant sheep – as well as feed, veterinary services and technical support. Families can later sell the animals for income, in addition to benefiting from their milk.
In rural Damascus, Mr Sy visited another initiative where SARC is training local women in carpet weaving – a skill that is already translating into new economic opportunities for some. In all, SARC, IFRC and partners aim to help about 37,000 families to strengthen their livelihoods across 2017.
“This crisis remains, first and foremost, an acute humanitarian emergency,” said Mr Sy. “However, whenever we can, we also need to do a better job of supporting people to become stronger and more resilient. There are examples of this being done, but it’s not enough – we need to bring these efforts to scale.”
During his visit, Mr Sy met with the President of SARC, Engineer Khaled Hboubati, and discussed ongoing partnership between SARC and IFRC, as well as the need to strengthen and expand livelihoods and health programmes. He also met with the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, H.E. Walid Muallem, highlighting the critical role that is played by SARC in responding to needs across the country. In Damascus, he spoke with UN Resident Coordinator, Mr Ali H. Al-Za’tari, as well as with representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, other Red Cross and Red Crescent partners, and leaders of humanitarian agencies.
Mr Sy’s visit coincided with tragic news from Al-Tabaqa in Raqqa governorate, where a SARC volunteer was reported killed in the line of duty on 27 March.
“We have now lost 63 Red Crescent volunteers and staff, along with 8 colleagues from the Palestine Red Crescent Society Syria branch. Despite this, the people I met remain so committed, so focused on their mission. But counting the number who have died is a horrible way of measuring their commitment and courage. We call, once again, on all parties to live up to their responsibilities under international humanitarian law, and to protect aid workers,” said Mr Sy.
IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network comprising 190 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies working to save lives and promote dignity around the world.