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At a glance: Syrian Arab Republic

Field diary: Delivering aid to Syrian families in rural Idleb

© UNICEF Syrian Arab Republic/2013/Al Kaae
The United Nations humanitarian supply convoy crosses a checkpoint during its mission to a hard-to-reach area of rural Idleb.

By Michele Al Kaae

UNICEF Emergency Officer Michele Al Kaae was part of a United Nations convoy that delivered much-needed supplies to a hard-to-reach part of the Syrian Arab Republic.

TARTOUS, Syrian Arab Republic, 6 January 2014 – I took part in a recent United Nations convoy that delivered much-needed relief supplies to a hard-to-reach area of rural Idleb, in the northwest part of the Syrian Arab Republic.

An estimated 40,000 displaced people have taken shelter in Khan Shikhon town, in the southern part of the governorate, swelling the town’s regular population of around 80,000. They have come mainly to escape fighting in their home areas in rural parts of Idleb and Hama governorates.

For many of these vulnerable children and families, the humanitarian situation in Khan Shikhon is grim. Drinking water is in short supply, because of a lack of electricity to run the pumping station. A lack of fuel means that backup generators are also not available. As a result, people rely on private wells to get their water. The water quality cannot be guaranteed, however, contributing to a higher risk of waterborne diseases.

There is currently no electricity, with local residents reporting that they have been without power from the grid for more than 18 months. A shortage of medical staff and certain medicines has left the two hospitals and a clinic only partially functional.  
Food is available, but prices have risen dramatically, putting some ordinary items out of the reach of families already struggling to get by.

The community is effectively cut off in terms of communication, with the mobile network, landlines and Internet barely working or not available at all. While some 27 schools remain open, they badly need school supplies, including desks.
One of the few bright spots is that, despite the difficulties on the ground, children in the town have been receiving their polio vaccinations as part of a Ministry of Health–led national campaign.

Six United Nations agencies – IOM, OCHA, UNICEF, UNDSS, UNHCR and WFP – contributed to the convoy, which consisted of 10 trucks laden with supplies. Among them were two truckloads of UNICEF supplies, including soap, washing powder and family water kits. Each water kit provides for 10 families, including jerry cans and cups, along with Aquatabs for water purification. The supplies are sufficient for 3,000 families – or around 15,000 people for a month. Other supplies in the convoy included food, blankets, mattresses and plastic sheeting.

The convoy travelled for two days and was eventually able to enter Khan Shikhon.

Although ongoing fighting has hampered the delivery of humanitarian supplies, this convoy was a positive step forward. Not only did it result in essential supplies getting through, but it also provided an opportunity to meet with community leaders and get a better picture of the humanitarian situation and urgent needs, including the need for education support. UNICEF followed up and was able to deliver school materials to the Khan Shikhon district for 4,000 children: Specifically, school bags containing stationery and recreational kits. School supplies for an additional 4,000 children will be delivered once the security situation allows.

The Khan Shikhon mission is part of a larger effort to access hard-to-reach areas in this and other governorates of the Syrian Arab Republic with ongoing emergency assistance.



UNICEF Photography: Syrian crisis

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