Africa 9.1.2017 10:59 am

Syria a widespread humanitarian disaster, say SA activists

AFP/File / Fadi Al-Halabi<br />The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the majority of the over 500 killed since July 31 in Aleppo were rebels fighters and jihadists

AFP/File / Fadi Al-Halabi
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the majority of the over 500 killed since July 31 in Aleppo were rebels fighters and jihadists

Tens of thousands of Syrians were forced to leave their homes over recent months because of the war.

South African humanitarians say the situation in Syria is “dire” and they have appealed to locals to continue donating.

Social activist and founder of #OperationSA, Yusuf Abramjee, and Al-Imdaad Foundation trustee, Qari Ziyaad Patel, returned from the Turkish/Syrian border at the weekend.

Speaking on their return, the two humanitarians said what they saw over five days “continues to haunt us… it is painful. We are still on an emotional roller coaster.”

Abramjee and Patel were given official permission to enter Syria through a “safe humanitarian corridor”.

“It’s winter in the region. It’s bitterly cold and raining and snowing in some areas,” Abramjee said.

Tens of thousands of Syrians were forced to leave their homes over recent months because of the war.

“When one comes face to face with the victims of the devastating war, the effects hit you right in the face. What we witnessed broke our hearts,” Abramjee said.

“We saw the good, bad and ugly. It was good to see all the humanitarian efforts. But more needs to be done. We saw the bad in terms of orphans and widows suffering. And we saw the very ugly side to the war such as people paralysed,” he said.

The IHH Turkish-based Humanitarian Relief Foundation, hosted the South Africans which included three other volunteers from the Al-Imdaad Foundation.

Patel said: “On one day alone, we counted some 100 trucks loaded with food, blankets, mattresses and other essentials ready to go to the various camps. Most left the following morning for Aleppo.

“Aid, including food, blankets, clothing, mattresses and medicines continues to arrive and leave the warehouses,” said Abramjee.

There are some three million Syrian refugees on the border with Turkey. In Reyhanli alone, are 120,000 refugees.

There are about one million young refugees and only 50 percent go to school.

“There are 1,500 orphans (aged 2 to 12) in Reyhanli alone,” added Abramjee.

“We joined aid workers into Idlib Syria. Trucks line the border waiting to go in with aid. Along the way, life appears to continue as normal. Stores are open. But there is total destruction in other areas,” he added.

The team also visited a refugee camp some 20km from the border which has about 150,000 Syrians.

Patel said that in addition to food, clothing, mattresses and blankets, baby food and medicines were also urgently needed.

A “Block Housing” project launched by the IHH, not far from the refugee camp, was also visited by the team.

Each unit costs US$8,000 (About R108,000) and once open will accommodate an entire family. They needed sponsors. Widows and their families would receive priority.

The Tiny Hearts Village is set to be the biggest orphanage in the world when it is opened in Reyhanli in a few weeks.

Al-Imdaad has already channelled funds raised by itself and #OperationSA to various IHH programmes.

“We will monitor the distribution over the next few weeks and also the work of other charities we donated millions of rands to,” Abramjee said.

To pledge for the #SAveSyria #OperationSA initiative, SMS 0723999999 or go to www.operationsa.org

#OperationSA has received R15,1-million in pledges over the past three weeks. Almost R11-million has been paid. This is a recall of 72 percent. R9,7-million has been distributed to seven charities.

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