Aid is shifting to smaller programs to help families cultivate seeds, raise sheep, and find ways to make a living as Syria emerges from a decade of war, according to the leader of the Red Cross network on Friday.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) secretary-general, Jagan Chapagain, said it was time to move beyond the basic humanitarian task of delivering food and medication, but this will continue.
“We want to start transitioning towards … livelihood support,” he said in an interview in Geneva, after returning from a trip to Homs and Douma – former rebel strongholds reclaimed by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
Hundreds of thousands of people have died as a result of the fighting, which has forced 11 million people – roughly half of the population – to flee their homes. The destruction of Syria’s economy is Assad’s greatest issue now that he has regained control of roughly 70% of the country.
Some Western donors have expressed reservations about funding rehabilitation under Assad, who was re-elected to a fourth term last month in a rigged election, according to the West.
According to Chapagain, the destruction in Douma, where Assad voted, is immense. “I went to view the hospital, and there isn’t much there except for a few little pillars of what used to be the hospital gate,” he said.
Local residents are building a 40-bed hospital and seeking donations of medical equipment including scanners rather than cash, he said. The Federation was working with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), he added.
“Even now, all SARC facilities in Douma are underground. Because they built this place to shelter themselves during the siege… The mosque’s (food) distribution center is still there.”
SARC and the Federation have supplied seeds, sheep, and life-changing equipment to 15 farming families in Deir Baalbah, a village in Homs, according to Chapagain.
“These 15 families were able to convert their acreage into productive agricultural land using only a submersible water pump and solar panels. They’d just harvested a bumper crop of wheat, and I noticed they were planting potatoes “he stated
“Another 50 families are interested in participating in this endeavor,” he stated.