No respite for Syria after 12 years of war
After 12 years of war in Syria, 7 out of 10 people are currently in need of humanitarian assistance. The country has 22 million inhabitants, 6 million of whom are displaced persons who have fled the fighting and whose living conditions are extremely precarious.
Aleppo, a building severely damaged after earthquake – © Première Urgence Internationale
Hostilities are not giving the population any respite, and many regions are still being bombed and are fully devastated.
The earthquakes that hit Turkey and Syria in February 2023 have worsened the humanitarian situation: almost 9 million people have been directly affected in Syria, not counting the number of deaths, which amounts to at least 5,800 people reported. The toll of this disaster is far from being definitive, since the first tremors, no less than 1,200 aftershocks have been recorded. These aftershocks may cause further destruction of buildings whose foundations have been severely damaged.
A constant adaptation
Première Urgence Internationale has been present in Syria since 2008. When it began its mission, the organisation’s mandate was to respond to the humanitarian needs of refugees who had fled the war in Iraq.
From 2011 onwards, the challenge has been to maintain its operations and this time to extend its mandate to the Syrian population and to help the most vulnerable people to cope with the consequences of the war.
Première Urgence Internationale currently runs programmes in 10 governorates of Syria and provides assistance in the areas of shelter, access to water and sanitation, food and education.
One of the main challenges has been to be able to adapt the interventions on the ground to the changing frontlines and security conditions in the country over the past 12 years.
The earthquakes of February 2023 led the teams to review their modus operandi. As several staff members found themselves on the streets with their families, it was necessary to quickly find accommodation and integrate an emergency response into the activities already underway in the four governorates affected by the earthquake.
The teams started by providing material aid to the rescue workers notably generators so that they have electricity during rescue operations.
After conducting numerous field assessments to identify the most at-risk buildings and determine the level of destruction of the infrastructure, Première Urgence Internationale teams were able to implement several actions:
- In Aleppo: a collective shelter was rehabilitated and 5 others benefited from improved sanitary facilities. 20 schools and 2 other collective shelters were selected for rehabilitation.
- In Lattakia: Première Urgence Internationale was mandated to supervise the management of the Sport City center that received the largest number of disaster victims. The premises were arranged to create partitions so that families could enjoy privacy. 29 schools have been selected for work, 5 of which have already been rehabilitated, and 6 other collective centres have been programmed.
- In Hama and Homs, rehabilitation work has started on 15 schools, and 23 others are planned.
In the four governorates, several water networks have been severely damaged, and some water towers have completely collapsed after the earthquake. Teams are working to ensure the rehabilitation of several water networks, and in the meantime are providing water trucking to families accommodated in collective shelters.
In addition, educational activities have been set up to prevent children from dropping out of school and to offer them recreational activities.
Lattakia, Educational activities – © Première Urgence Internationale
When solidarity actors get involved
Following the earthquakes in February, many actors showed their support for the victims in Türkiye and Syria. The actions implemented by the Première Urgence Internationale teams were made possible thanks to private donations collected and the financial support of Foundation S – The Sanofi Collective, the Fondation Abbé Pierre and the Fondation de France.
A Gala evening was also organised on 6 March by the Compagnie GRUSS, through the Alexis GRUSS endowment fund. Numerous artists were present to put on a unique show in support of the populations of Turkey and Syria. Thanks to the sale of tickets and an auction, 30,000 euros were collected for Première Urgence Internationale and Œuvre d’Orient.
Charity Gala GRUSS company – © Olivier Brajon
Thanks to this support, many families will be able to benefit from safe shelter and have access to adequate hygiene services while waiting to begin the long-term reconstruction phase.