Hundreds of children evacuated from East Aleppo are arriving alone, Unicef says

KATIE KENNY

A girl rides a bus to be evacuated from a rebel-held sector of eastern Aleppo, Syria, on December 18, 2016. ABDALRHMAN ISMAIL/REUTERS

Through rain and snow the buses are still snaking into East Aleppo to evacuate people from rebel-held areas.

Footage, shot by Unicef staff on December 3, shows some arriving at a shelter in the government-controlled town of Jibreen. It shows families being unloaded from trucks, people milling around the dusty compound, and others sleeping on mats and sacks of possessions.

Unicef communications specialist Shushan Mebrahtu is in touch with her colleagues there on a daily basis.

Speaking from Damascus on Thursday morning (local time) Mebrahtu said the process was ongoing. Owing to limited access to besieged neighbourhoods there was no way of knowing how many more people were to be evacuated.

Winter conditions are sweeping through the Middle East and last night’s buses were travelling through snow, she said. People had been waiting for days on the front lines, freezing. Children arriving at shelters were weak and in need of medical attention. Many had been separated from their families.

Men walk near damage inside Aleppo’s Umayyad mosque, Syria, on December 13, 2016. OMAR SANADIKI/REUTERS

“There are many hundreds of children who have arrived alone,” she said.

Yesterday, a colleague spoke of one young girl, aged around two, who had been plucked from a pile of rubble by a stranger on their way out of the conflict zone.

“This is a lucky girl – someone found her and brought her to the shelter. We are now trying ot reunify her with a caregiver.”

A man with a baby rides a bus to be evacuated from a rebel-held sector of eastern Aleppo, Syria, on December 18, 2016. ABDALRHMAN ISMAIL/REUTERS

Unicef and partners were responding with life-saving assistance by trucking safe water to families, immunising children, providing primary health care, screening and treating malnutrition in children, as well as providing psychosocial support and mine risk education.

Many of the children have lost years of education, Mebrahtu said. “We have started what we call accelerated learning programmes to help them catch up, so they can eventually reintegrate into schooling.”

 

Source:  Stuff.co.nz