More than a quarter of a million people face the freezing Syrian winter with limited food and clean water, as renewed Syrian and Russian airstrikes stretch medical resources beyond the breaking point.
Since the conflict began in March 2011, hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost and millions of people have been displaced from their homes in Syria. And with the recent launch of a major Syrian-Russian military offensive, this humanitarian crisis has worsened. From the start of the offensive in late July, Aleppo residents have only had intermittent access to clean water through the public network, and have been forced to rely on wells and water supplied by truck, which can be unsafe and even contaminated. Food rations have almost run out, threatening mass starvation, and medical supplies in the area are scarce, made worse by attacks on hospitals. However, no international aid convoys have been able to reach East Aleppo since late July.
“The situation is extremely dire. Medical supplies will not last more than a few weeks now that the airstrikes have resumed and the city is under siege. The few remaining medical staff are exhausted and overwhelmed. The city doesn’t have fuel or other sources of energy. And without fuel, electric generators and ambulances cannot function. We have to act now before it’s too late,” said Dr. Ahman Tarakjui, the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) president.
In order to significantly increase and improve access to clean water across the city of Aleppo, Oxfam is helping to install a new generator at the city’s main water station. This generator, along with another installed by Oxfam earlier this year, will pump water to all of Aleppo’s residents even when the power supply is cut off.
“The two generators that Oxfam has provided should help provide a more consistent supply of clean water to Aleppo’s nearly two million residents. But food and medical supplies remain blocked. Clean water is vital, but it won’t stop starvation, never mind protect people from indiscriminate aerial attacks,” said Andy Baker, Oxfam’s lead for the Syria crisis response.
With ongoing airstrikes and bombardments targeting health facilities, the medical situation is on the brink of collapse in East Aleppo. According to SAMS, there are only 29 doctors left in the area, and the children of East Aleppo have not had access to critical vaccinations.
Despite two announcements by the Russian military of a ceasefire, and the opening of humanitarian corridors, very limited aid has been able to reach East Aleppo and no medical evacuations have taken place. Russia dismissed longer pauses requested by the UN, and Syrian airstrikes have resumed on the area after a pause that lasted nearly a month.
Oxfam calls for a complete halt in the fighting, an end to airstrikes and indiscriminate bombardment, and a lifting of the siege to allow aid into East Aleppo, and people to leave the city safely.
Moreover, as Syrian refugees increasingly wonder whether they'll still be welcome in the US, we must keep our hearts and our doors open to some of the world’s most vulnerable people in their time of need.