Syrian civil war drags on

Syria entered its second year of violent unrest in 2012. The violence in the country is all-pervasive. According to United Nations figures, the death toll from the conflict stood at over 70,000 at the end of 2012. More than a million civilians have fled to neighboring countries, two million are displaced within Syria and four million are completely dependent on humanitarian aid.
The Red Cross initiated the relief effort in Syria at the outset of the conflict. In some areas, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent is the only aid organization in the field. Together with the International Committee of the Red Cross, it provides assistance to refugees and others affected by the conflict. The Red Cross also helps Syrian refugees who have escaped from their country into Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.

No safe access

The Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent are providing relief in the war-torn country, but many villages and urban neighborhoods are inaccessible due to the fighting. As a result, untold numbers of people in Syria are not receiving the help they need.

The Red Cross has been negotiating daily with both the Syrian government and opposition groups on how to gain access to victims. However, reaching any sort of agreement is virtually impossible due to the large number of fractions involved in the fighting. The front lines are shifting constantly and many areas are difficult to access.

Relief workers under fire

The ongoing violence claimed more and more victims in 2012, and not only Syrian citizens and journalists. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent also suffered heavy losses. Since the start of the civil war, at least eight volunteers have been killed while providing emergency relief, despite being clearly identifiable by the internationally recognized  and protected emblem of the Red Crescent. In July 2012 a Syrian Arab Red Crescent ambulance was stolen.


Although the Syrian Arab Red Crescent has been working non-stop since the outbreak of the conflict, the organization has been overwhelmed by the sheer volume of assistance required by the hundreds of thousands of victims. This video (Dutch subtitles) gives an insight into the efforts being made by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and the difficulties faced by the organization while providing relief.

Assistance from the International Committee of the  Red Cross

The International Committee of the  Red Cross (ICRC) has been assisting the Syrian Arab Red Crescent with the provision of emergency relief. In 2012, the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent together helped ensure that clean water was available to over 14 million people. They delivered food items to more than 1.5 million people, most of them displaced. Another half a million Syrians were supplied with other essentials such as blankets, mattresses, kitchen utensils and so forth. Furthermore, the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent donated enough surgical and other medical supplies to treat thousands of patients across the country.
The ICRC has produced an overview of its efforts in Syria in 2012.

Assistance from Belgian Red Cross-Flanders

Belgian Red Cross-Flanders also made efforts to help Syria in 2012. In consultation with the ICRC, we determined the additional needs of the population.

We launched a public appeal for donations and submitted a project proposal to the Flemish government for additional emergency relief. Thanks to over €50,000 of private donations and a €150,000 contribution from the Flemish government, we were able to supply the Syrian Arab Red Crescent with:

  • a fully equipped ambulance;
  • five health kits, which can provide basic medical care to 10,000 people for up to three months;
  • 10,240 blankets.

Despite all these efforts and of course the manifold efforts of other organizations, the situation remains critical. There can be no let-up in our response.

Related items

Emergency relief
DREF: emergency relief for silent emergencies
Benelux Emergency Response Unit
After the emergency relief