Urgent Call for Safe Routes out of East Aleppo as Children Killed Trying to Escape

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (December 2, 2016) — Save the Children is urgently calling for safe routes out of opposition-held areas of East Aleppo for families who wish to leave, after dozens of people were killed trying to flee.

Our partners in the besieged city say the situation is desperate, with constant bombardment, no proper shelter for newly displaced families and almost no food or fuel. Children are vulnerable and exposed in the middle of a battlefield. There are reports of people packing what they can carry and going to the frontlines on foot to try to get out, but this is extremely dangerous.

In the midst of the chaos children are being separated from their parents and people are being killed and injured as they venture out into the open under heavy airstrikes. In the last couple of days, at least 70 people have reportedly been killed[1] as they tried to cross the frontline, many of them children.

Safe routes out of the besieged city can and must be set up during a pause in hostilities. All sides in the fighting have an obligation to allow civilians to leave safely and without fear of reprisal. Movement along these routes should be entirely voluntary and established and monitored by the UN and International Committee of the Red Cross.

"The first priority remains ending the violence and getting help into people in East Aleppo. Families should not be forced to leave their homes and communities under the threat of bombs and starvation," said Sonia Khush, Save the Children’s Syria Director. "The reality however is that international aid has not been allowed in to the city for almost five months, and conditions have become so desperate that people are taking deadly risks to flee under fire and cross frontlines into an uncertain fate."

"More children are going to die trying to reach safety in the coming days if we do not urgently establish safe, internationally monitored routes. The world has utterly failed the children of East Aleppo, but the warring parties have an obligation to protect them now in their hour of greatest need."

Civilians in the opposition-held part of the city are understandably nervous to enter territory controlled by government forces and their allies, who have been besieging them for months. There have been unconfirmed reports of young men being separated from their families as they leave and either detained or forced to join the military.

Safe passage should therefore be granted for civilians who wish to travel to areas not under government control. Save the Children has pre-positioned supplies in those areas ready to help displaced families, including food rations and emergency health kits.

Save the Children asks all governments with influence over the parties to the conflict, and particularly the Russian government, to immediately implement a 72-hour pause in fighting to allow safe routes to be set up and allow aid in to the remaining population. They must also end the appalling attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, including hospitals and schools, which have characterized this conflict.

[1] Source: OCHA Aleppo situation report

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