"The Smell of Blood and Gunpowder Fills the Air:" Aid Workers in Aleppo and Idlib Say Tens of Thousands of Children Are at Risk as Crisis Escalates

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (July 27, 2016) — Northwest Syria is on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe as aid is prevented from reaching people in need and deadly bombing intensifies, Save the Children has warned. Tens of thousands of children in Aleppo are in danger of running out of food, water and healthcare within weeks unless the worsening siege of the city and targeting of hospitals ends immediately. New airstrikes have also devastated the city of Idlib, forcing thousands of families there to flee their homes.

As the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) met in Geneva on Tuesday, Save the Children called for an immediate ceasefire and unimpeded access for vital humanitarian aid.

Save the Children partners working in Aleppo say food and fuel are the most urgent needs. Bread, fruit and vegetables are already running out since the last road in and out of the city was cut off, putting an estimated 300,000 people — 60 percent of them women and children — under siege. Almost constant bombing is making the situation even worse. This week an airstrike hit a warehouse of a Save the Children partner, damaging food supplies for 10,000 families that had been put in place before the siege. The price of fuel — desperately needed to keep water pumps and medical services operational — has tripled.

Hospitals, schools and other vital civilian infrastructure are being attacked indiscriminately, with at least nine medical facilities bombed in the past week in Aleppo and Idlib. The medical laboratory of the interim Idlib Health Directorate, which included the only CT scan in the city, has been badly damaged. Aleppo’s only pediatric hospital has been bombed and closed down, and several ambulances also damaged. Patients in critical condition are prevented from leaving Aleppo for treatment due to the siege, putting their lives at risk. Ongoing airstrikes mean emergency response teams are struggling to rescue children and families trapped under the rubble of buildings.

One Save the Children partner in Idlib, where there have been more than 100 airstrikes reported in the past few days, said: "The streets are totally empty and the smell of blood and gunpowder fills the air. Thousands of families are fleeing the city into the countryside."

An estimated 4,000 families (around 20,000 people) have fled Idlib in the past week. Save the Children and local partners are distributing cash to help them buy food and essential supplies, and running four mobile health clinics in the area to help sick children and mothers.

Sonia Khush, Save the Children’s Syria Director, said the ISSG must take urgent action: "Civilians in Aleppo have had years of being bombed and now they face being starved as well. Supplies are set to run out within weeks unless aid is allowed in. It is scandalous that over the last six months we have heard continued failed promises to get aid into besieged areas of Syria, whilst what could be the biggest siege yet is unfolding before our eyes. International credibility is on the line. Local doctors and aid workers are working in some of the most difficult and dangerous conditions imaginable, trying to save lives while bombs fall around them. Aid must urgently be allowed in before more children die."

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