GENEVA, SWITZERLAND — The United Nations refugee agency says it brought winter emergency relief this week to thousands of internally displaced people in northern Syria.
The UNHCR says it has delivered 15,000 blankets and 3,000 tents to the Azzas area in northwestern Syria, where thousands of victims of Syria’s civil war are living in makeshift camps.
The agency airlifted the relief items from its central warehouse in Copenhagen to a civilian airport near Latakia on the Syrian coast. From there, it was transported by road in an eight-truck convoy to an area between the city of Aleppo and the Syrian-Turkish border.
The Syrian government and the opposition Syrian National Coalition provided logistical support in the battle-ravaged area.
Yacoub El Hillo, the director of UNHCR’s Middle East and North African Bureau, said aid gaps remain. He said in the future the UNHCR will speed up the aid process by bringing in relief items from its regional stockpile in neighboring Jordan.
“What we are doing now is opening this access from within the country, hoping that this will be maintained because the momentum has now been built with the support of all sides and it is indeed our aim, not only as UNHCR, but also as the inter-agency family inside Syria to move the next convoy in the next few days with larger quantities of aid to this population in that part of the country, but also to many other parts of the country where displaced families are today in disputed areas and not only in government controlled areas,” said El Hillo.
A month-long U.N. mission to the western Syrian twon of Homs has found that about 700,000 people are affected by the violence in the region, with many of them displaced.
A spokeswoman for the U.N. Children’s Fund, Marixie Mercado, said children comprise half of the 420,000 people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.
“According to partners, almost one in three people in Homs is a displaced person and about two-thirds of the displaced are below 18 years old. The Homs mission found that out of some 1,500 schools around 200 have been damaged as a result of the fighting and around 65 are now hosting displaced families. Across Syria, one in four schools has been damaged or destroyed or is being used as a shelter for the displaced,” said Mercado.
A UNICEF official said the children need psychological and other support to help them cope with their traumatic experiences.