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Friday 26 April 2013

ShelterBox sends much-needed aid into Syria
ShelterBox sends much-needed aid into Syria ShelterBox aid being loaded onto truck at its headquarters in Cornwall, UK, before heading to Syria via Turkey, April 2013.

After 18 months helping on the borders of Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, ShelterBox has now found another way of getting aid into Syria itself via Turkey to help families displaced by the ongoing conflict.

The ShelterBox Operations team has been studying the Hatay and Kilis regions between Turkey and northern Syria, and talking to humanitarian partners in the area. They believe they have now found a route that will get vital equipment across the borders into Syria to families in need.

According to the Humanitarian Information Unit, an estimated 3.6 million people in Syria have been forced from their homes, but are still within the country’s borders. They are living in fear and desperately in need of basic aid.

United Nations envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi said: "Yes, this situation appears to be totally hopeless, with no light to be seen at the end of a long tunnel Syria is lost in... Almost 50 percent of the Syrian population are being gravely affected by the conflict. I wonder if this is not a depressing record in the history of conflict."

While the distribution of ShelterBoxes in Lebanon and Jordan continues, the charity has now made a strategic decision to send "non shelter items" into Syria - including water purification equipment, water carriers, insect nets, solar lamps, kitchen sets and SchoolBoxes containing children’s packs and activities. There are fears that tents supplied in the familiar green ShelterBoxes may draw attention, making displaced families a target for snipers or looters. So difficult choices have had to be made about which lifesaving items can safely be distributed without endangering the recipients.

Aid leaves today

The first truckload of aid leaves the charity’s headquarters in Cornwall, UK, today to begin its 3,000 mile journey and is expected to reach the Syrian border in around 10 days. If successful, this new aid "pipeline" will see final distribution within Syria by implementing partner, Hand in Hand for Syria.

Syrian refugee children in Lebanon, March 2013. Photo courtesy of Mike Greenslade.

ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) member, Max Hogg (UK) will be part of the team traveling to Turkey to oversee the shipment of vitally needed aid through the country into Syria:

"If the shipment is a success, we may be able to establish a new route through which we can assist the Syrian people, who desperately need outside support. It feels amazing to set off on this deployment, with the thought that we might be establishing a new way to meet some of this need.

"The humanitarian crisis in the country is highly complex though. Part of our job in Turkey is to ensure that any aid we send into Syria gets to the people who need it most. It's difficult to achieve this in a war zone, especially as we can't actually enter Syria itself. We're lucky to be working with partners who will help to ensure that the aid gets to those most vulnerable. However, the reality is that we will be operating on the border of a country at war with itself. We're anticipating a tiring and at times, arduous deployment, keeping both ourselves and donor's aid safe."

Reaching thousands

ShelterBox’s Chief Executive Officer, Alison Wallace added: "ShelterBox has been responding to the Syrian conflict since the beginning of 2012, during which time the country has descended ever further into conflict. We have already been very successful in reaching thousands of refugees, despite the challenges of a very complex and dynamic situation."

At the end of 2012, ShelterBox succeeded in placing winter kits containing blankets, groundsheets and water carriers for 710 families at the Al-Salameh camp near the Turkish border just inside Syria. On that occasion, they worked with humanitarian organization Solidarités International.

"But we were always ambitious to get consignments even further into Syria," added Alison. "Now it looks like we might have found a safe and effective corridor. We wish everyone well on this journey, as we know thousands of people are waiting anxiously for the help we can bring."
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