Syria - October 2013 Flour Delivery
On the morning of 2nd October Human Appeal trucks will be taking flour to bakeries which will feed 200, 000 displaced people in Syria. They are the individuals and families who have not been able to cross the border into Turkey. From Dublin, Fiona and Khalid are travelling with the convoy for the first leg of the journey. We will have updates as they are able to get in touch with us here in the office. Below is Fiona's blog on her first visit.
Fiona's First Day on the Ground
Both Khaled and I arrived to Istanbul and subsequently met up with the guys from Human Appeal International for the last leg of our journey to Hatay. It was a late night and an early morning start.
We visited the Human Appeal offices on the Turkish side of the border where we met up with the 'flour convoy' then travelled through customs which have become far stricter especially for NGOs, into 'no mans land' where today the convoy of 24 flour trucks were unloaded onto smaller trucks for distribution to the camps and into Syria. This was an experience in itself. These first loads are part of a forty truck distribution effort which will feed between 3-4000 families for a month. The team were very hands on with this back breaking work.
We continued further inside where we passed IDP (internally displaced persons) camps, These camps have been helped by NGO's who have rented land from local farms and the Syrian people fleeing war have set up 'ad hoc' camps from little or nothing.
We visited a local school in Qua which is supported by Human Appeal which educates 1000 children, 800 of whom are from the surrounding camps. There we handed out school supplies to the children who gave us an overwhelming welcome.
As the border closes around 5pm we travelled back to visit a field hospital (which was originally a customs point) in Babelhowia, While there a 2 and half year old boy was rushed in; there had been a motor accident...head wounds...the family had been to two other hospitals and been sent to Babelhowia as it was the only hospital with a CT Scanner in the region...this scanner had been bought by donations to Human Appeal.
We spoke with the doctors who emphasised the importance of the medical equipment donated and reported on how much more was needed. I stayed with the mother and aunt...they were distraught.
At the customs coming out there were queues of families trying to leave...mother's with babies in their arms while trying to hold on to some belongings...whilst on the other side there were queues and queues and queues of trucks trying to gain entry. Guns are everywhere...and the tension is tangible.
There is no doubt that is a humanitarian crisis on a vast scale....there is no doubt of this Appeal.
Fiona's Second and Third Days
The next morning the agenda was to oversee the distribution of ‘food parcels’ into the camps. The ‘ground’ staff of Human Appeal work tirelessly to ensure things run as smoothly as possible given it is a conflict zone. From one day to the next you don’t know if you will get through customs…either in or out. Thankfully we did.
Joined again by armed escorts we travelled into ‘no man’s’ land where the ‘food parcels’, made possible by donors to our ‘Syrian Appeal’, were being loaded for distribution. Once again the team was very hands on. Each food parcel costs approx. €40 and initially was meant to feed a family of five for a month. But given the escalation of the situation there are more and more people filling the camps. Ask yourself “could you sit and eat while a child beside you goes hungry”? Syrian people are sharing what little there is so these parcels are not lasting. Urgent support is needed. If you are reading this please consider sponsoring a food parcel perhaps as a gift, birthday, Christmas or just a good thing to do. This can be arranged through the Dublin office and if it is by way of a gift for someone we will acknowledge same.
The first camp we visited was in the province of Idlib. There are 277 families, 2094 people there. It is hard to describe and although I had witnessed these camps through the media the reality for me was a completely different story! There are now well over 2 million people in camps, over half of these are children. There is another 7 million displaced people within Syria itself.
Little food, no sanitation, very little shelter and winter approaching quickly. There are no roads, just earth and within the tents themselves just a basic matting. What do you imagine will happen when it rains?
When I spoke to the young men, many of whom are university students and have some English their concerns were for the women and children. And yet I too was concerned, thousands of young men are in these camps with no structure, nothing to do. We need to visit the area of education, education, education.
And yet through all this suffering people smiled, women held my hand and invited us to whatever home they had…and the children, the beautiful, beautiful children. Who knows what trauma is in their hearts...yet in some it is very visible in their eyes.
As we moved from camp to camp it was the same story. Some of the camps were more established than others but fundamentally the same needs...food, water, clothing etc. Our work concentrated on just a few of the camps but we knew that many trucks were on their way further into Syria with food parcels only made possible by the generosity of the donors to Human Appeal.
Families had to register with an organiser before distribution. People having to queue just for basics, people caught in conflict...it could happen anywhere….it could be an Appeal for us tomorrow!
There are obviously going to be further problems. The lack of clean water is leading to disease. I noticed more and more children with blisters on their lips and with the onset of winter cooking inside the tents will be hazardous. We already know of children with third degree burns. The hospital facilities we visited in Babelhowia are vital, vital, but this needs more funding, more supplies.
When we reached the last camp where we were distributing food and baby formula my heart was lightened. There was a group of women gathered around a small donation of clothes.
When I spoke to them they explained how necessary the donation was. If I could have hugged everyone in the Irish community who donated clothes, blankets etc to our ‘Syrian Winter Clothes Appeal right then and there I would have! Just knowing how important your donations are...knowing the containers are en route...knowing that it really matters!
On this trip we also had the opportunity to visit a bakery which supplies bread daily to the camps and further into Syria. Flour, flour, flour, feeding thousands only made possible by your donations to Human Appeal…MAKE BREAD NOT WAR!
And finally, whilst Khaled and I were in Turkey en route back to Dublin we had some time in between flights and visited a market. Whilst there Khaled noticed a ‘baby carrier’ for want of a better description. A basic unit which can be supplied and delivered into the camps for €15.
We thought of the babies we had seen, many with special needs. We thought of the winter and the cold damp tent floors...we thought of asking...so we are asking! "Our work depends on your generosity. We still need to fund the shipment of the ‘Containers’ from the clothes appeal and would love if you would consider holding a fund raising event for us. We will support you in whatever way we can. Sponsorship cards etc can be sent from our offices in Dundrum. We are also fortunate to be given a concert by Maher Zahn in the National Arena, Tallaght, on the 2nd."