MONDAY, JUNE 10:
As millions of fearful children in Syria are being exposed to violence and conflict, ShelterBox is working to bring a sense of comfort and normality to some of them by providing children activity packs.
Schools in Syria have been attacked and both the army and opposition fighters have used the buildings as military bases and detention centers, according to Human Rights Watch.
"Syrian children have had to face things in the horrors of war that no child should have to bear – interrogated, targeted and attacked," Priyanka Motaparthy, children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the report, said in a statement. "Schools should be havens, but in a country that once valued schooling, many Syrian children aren’t even getting basic education and are losing out on their future."
Education facilities have become military targets putting children in danger and deterring them from attending school. Now, at least one in five Syrian schools is no longer running as they are said to be destroyed, damaged or sheltering people fleeing violence.
"To continue with their right to education, children are studying in makeshift schools informally set up by activist groups and civilian councils, but they lack teaching resources," said Ross Preston, ShelterBox Head of Operations. "We therefore sent a truckload of aid into Syria which included our SchoolBoxes containing stationary and activities for over 1,000 children."
ShelterBox’s implementing partner Hand in Hand for Syria (HIHS) has been distributing the packs in the south of Idlib, a particularly volatile Syrian province, and will continue distributions in other hostile areas to reach the most vulnerable children.
HIHS is also distributing other ShelterBox aid to homeless families who have fled civil war including water carriers and filters, mosquito nets, solar lamps and cooking equipment. Another consignment including family tents is already on its way.
Since the violence began more than 80,000 people have been killed, and fierce debate still rages in the UK, EU and Washington over whether or not to arm Syrian rebel forces. Meanwhile aid agencies have expressed alarm over conditions in the besieged Syrian town of Qusair, where thousands of civilians are believed to be trapped.
"Reaching into Syria is one of the greatest challenges ShelterBox has faced," said ShelterBox Chief Executive Alison Wallace. "This is a humanitarian crisis on a huge scale, and getting aid across the border and distributing it effectively to displaced families is both difficult and dangerous. The aid pipeline with HIHS is the first trickle of what we hope will become fast flowing practical help for those caught up in the country’s civil war."
Getting aid to people in need via local aid agencies is complex. Transport routes must be planned to avoid active conflict zones. Distribution has to be discreet without drawing attention to the aid. Civilians’ shelters must remain unidentifiable for fear of becoming targeted by snipers or looters.
ShelterBox has helped displaced Syrians in Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Syria over the past 18 months but this latest project with HIHS takes aid further into the country than before. It is hoped it will establish a durable route to ease the suffering of thousands of displaced adults and children.
THURSDAY, MAY 23:
As civil war carries on in Syria and the dynamic security situation continues to deteriorate in the surrounding region, ShelterBox has partnered with Hand in Hand for Syria (HIHS) to get vital humanitarian aid to people internally displaced inside Syria.
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), some 6.8 million people have been forced from their homes in the war-torn country having been exposed to violence and unremitting fighting. Many now remain within the borders with no home to go to and no possessions.
It’s extremely difficult for most humanitarian organizations to carry out their work and help people in Syria due to its dangerous environment. However ShelterBox teamed up with HIHS, one of the few charities that has a presence within Syria, to deliver essential aid to Syrians desperately in need.
"HIHS operates through a distribution network of local aid workers to reach communities across Syria," said Faddy Sahloul, Chairman and Founder of HIHS in the UK.
"In practice this means when we receive aid into our warehouses in Syria, we pack it down accordingly to our assessments on which areas are in need, and liaise with the various teams around the country to come and collect and then distribute it.
"Obviously, this is a very simplified description, in practice the security situation makes it extremely complex because so many different variables need to be taken into consideration such as planning routes to avoid active conflict zones, doing the distribution discretely so as not to draw attention to the aid, and making sure the civilian shelters remain unidentifiable so that they do not become potential targets."
The ShelterBox aid, which includes water carriers and filters, insect nets, solar lamps, kitchen sets and children’s activity packs, is now in HIHS’s warehouse in Syria and distributions should begin this week.
"It’s taken a lot of research to find this very rare route to get aid into Syria itself," added Sam Hewett, ShelterBox Operations Coordinator. "With how hard it is for charities to access humanitarian space there and move around, I believe ShelterBox is one of the few that is helping Syrian families by bringing them non-food items, fundamental to their comfort and survival."
FRIDAY, APRIL 26:
After 18 months helping on the borders of Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, ShelterBox has now found another way of getting aid into Syria itself to help families displaced by the ongoing conflict.
The ShelterBox Operations team has been studying new routes into Syria, and talking to humanitarian partners in the area. They believe they have now found a route that will get vital equipment across the borders into Syria to families in need.
According to the Humanitarian Information Unit an estimated 3.6 million people in Syria have been forced from their homes, but are still within the country’s borders. They are living in fear and desperately in need of basic aid.
United Nations envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi said: "Yes, this situation appears to be totally hopeless, with no light to be seen at the end of a long tunnel Syria is lost in... Almost 50 percent of the Syrian population are being gravely affected by the conflict. I wonder if this is not a depressing record in the history of conflict."
While the distribution of ShelterBoxes in Lebanon and Jordan continues, the charity has now made a strategic decision to send non-shelter aid items into Syria - including water purification equipment, water carriers, insect nets, solar lamps, kitchen sets and SchoolBoxes containing children’s packs and activities. There are fears that tents supplied in the familiar green ShelterBoxes may draw attention, making displaced families a target for snipers or looters. So difficult choices have had to be made about which lifesaving items can safely be distributed without endangering the recipients.
The first truckload of aid leaves the charity’s headquarters in Cornwall, UK, today to begin its 3,000 mile journey and is expected to reach the Syrian border in around 10 days. If successful, this new aid ‘pipeline’ will see final distribution within Syria by implementing partner Hand in Hand for Syria.
ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) member Max Hogg (UK) will be part of the team travelling to the area to oversee the shipment of vitally needed aid through the country into Syria:
"If the shipment is a success we may be able to establish a new route through which we can assist the Syrian people, who desperately need outside support. It feels amazing to set off on this deployment, with the thought that we might be establishing a new way to meet some of this need.
"The humanitarian crisis in the country is highly complex though. Part of our job here is to ensure that any aid we send into Syria gets to the people who need it most. It's difficult to achieve this in a war zone, especially as we can't actually enter Syria itself. We're lucky to be working with partners who will help to ensure that the aid gets to those most vulnerable. However, the reality is that we will be operating on the border of a country at war with itself. We're anticipating a tiring and at times arduous deployment, keeping both ourselves and donor's aid safe."
ShelterBox’s Chief Executive Officer Alison Wallace added, "ShelterBox has been responding to the Syrian conflict since the beginning of 2012, during which time the country has descended ever further into conflict. We have already been very successful in reaching thousands of refugees, despite the challenges of a very complex and dynamic situation."
At the end of 2012 ShelterBox succeeded in placing winter kits containing blankets, groundsheets and water carriers for 710 families at the Al-Salameh camp near the Turkish border just inside Syria. On that occasion they worked with humanitarian organization Solidarités International.
"But we were always ambitious to get consignments even further into Syria," added Alison. "Now it looks like we might have found a safe and effective corridor. We wish everyone well on this journey, as we know thousands of people are waiting anxiously for the help we can bring." back