Working to bring hope to Aleppo

A bus drives through the government-controlled crossing of Ramoussa, on the southern outskirts of Aleppo, on December 18, 2016, during an evacuation operation of rebel fighters and civilians from rebel-held areas.

A bus drives through the government-controlled crossing of Ramoussa, on the southern outskirts of Aleppo, on December 18, 2016, during an evacuation operation of rebel fighters and civilians from rebel-held areas.

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Syrian families who have managed to escape the intensifying violence in Aleppo are seeking refuge in “welcome centres” run by Edinburgh-based charity Mercy Corps.

The centres offer desperate civilians fleeing the civil war, a lifeline of hope as the efforts to evacuate thousands of people by bus from eastern Aleppo continue.

A member of the pro-government forces monitors the area as buses drive through the Syrian regime-controlled crossing of Ramoussa, on the southern outskirts of Aleppo, on December 18, 2016, during an evacuation operation of rebel fighters and civilians from rebel-held districts.

A member of the pro-government forces monitors the area as buses drive through the Syrian regime-controlled crossing of Ramoussa, on the southern outskirts of Aleppo, on December 18, 2016, during an evacuation operation of rebel fighters and civilians from rebel-held districts.

Charity workers say they have been providing the displaced people with basic necessities such as food, water and warm blankets and crucially, somewhere to sleep.

“Everyone deserves to have clean water, food and medical care, no matter where they live or what forces control their town,” Christy Delafield told the Evening News from the Mercy Corps base in Turkey.

With temperatures below freezing, Christy said the main priority was to provide shelter but the constant threat of violence made the situation increasingly unpredictable.

“We’re getting people out of Aleppo but it’s not as though it’s a safe haven,” Christy said. “It’s safer, but the war in Syria isn’t over and the dangers are all around.”

Muhammed Salih, 26, from Aleppo, Syria, holds his son, name not given, after crossing into Turkey, at the Cilvegozu border gate with Syria, near Hatay, southeastern Turkey, Sunday, Dec, 18, 2016. Several people were able to cross into Turkey after they managed to leave the embattled Syrian city. The Aleppo evacuation was suspended Friday after a report of shooting at a crossing point into the enclave by both sides of the conflict. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

Muhammed Salih, 26, from Aleppo, Syria, holds his son, name not given, after crossing into Turkey, at the Cilvegozu border gate with Syria, near Hatay, southeastern Turkey, Sunday, Dec, 18, 2016. Several people were able to cross into Turkey after they managed to leave the embattled Syrian city. The Aleppo evacuation was suspended Friday after a report of shooting at a crossing point into the enclave by both sides of the conflict. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

The emergency response co-ordinated by Mercy Corps is run on the ground by 100 local people.

“Our team members inside Syria are from Syria,” explained Christy. “It’s where they live and it is their home.

“But the threat of more violence is a fear they live with everyday.”

Nearly 10,000 civilians and fighters had been bussed out of eastern Aleppo by Friday morning, approximately 1,500 of which were moved to the centres before the evacuation stalled on Friday following reports of gunfire.

“There are 50,000 people still trapped in the city, maybe more. It could take more than a week to bus everyone out, but the situation remains uncertain,” Christy said.

Vast numbers of families were left stranded in the city when the government suspended the evacuation, pulling out buses that had been ferrying people out. Evacuations have no resumed.

And those who did make it, arrived with nothing.

“The people who are dropped at the centres have no personal belongings,” Christy said.

“They have faced unrelenting violence for six years and when they arrive we try to ascertain what their primary needs are.

“We want to give them as much dignity and support as we can muster with the 
resources that we have. We have this opportunity to make a difference,” Christy continued.

“Our team on the ground are so inspiring.

“This is their country.

“They work for Mercy Corps and they are doing all they can in a terrible situation to help their communities.”

fiona.pringle@jpress.co.uk