FILE - A Jan. 19, 2017, photo shows a general view of the destruction in the old city of Aleppo, Syria.
FILE - A Jan. 19, 2017, photo shows a general view of the destruction in the old city of Aleppo, Syria.

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - The International Committee of the Red Cross warns it will take Syria and its people decades to recover from more than seven years of warfare. 

A senior Red Cross official who has just returned from Syria describes the level of destruction in the war-torn country as breathtaking.

ICRC regional director for the Near and Middle East Fabrizio Carboni said he was shocked by the extent of the devastation in the ancient, historic city of Aleppo.

“In this city of Aleppo, I have never seen so many people crying ...  They carry such a weight, a pain and to many a sense of lack of hope, which is just breathtaking, if you consider the size of the city,” he said. 

Before the war, Aleppo was a major agricultural center of Syria, with a population of around 165,000. Carboni said millions of unexploded ordnance and landmines that have contaminated the country are killing or maiming many innocent civilians.  He said the ICRC has the expertise and the orthopedic centers to help the wounded.

Carboni said another one of his agency’s crucial activities will be to trace the whereabouts of hundreds of thousands of missing people.

“It is something, which poisons a society.  Because beyond the pain of not knowing, there are also a lot of consequences. Most of the time, breadwinners are the ones who are disappeared. So, families of missing people are often in a very vulnerable situation,” he said. 

Carboni said the Red Cross has shared the lists of those who have disappeared or been arrested with Syrian authorities, but he told VOA no names are provided to the authorities without prior consent from the families of the missing.

He noted people on the government side also are victims and have missing relatives.  He said learning their fate will provide closure to the bereaved and help them retrieve a semblance of normal life and help move toward peace.

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