Hugh Fenton is the Head of Middle East and North Africa for the British Red Cross, an aid organisation. He works with people all over the world to make sure the British Red Cross can get to the people who need help. He also speaks to journalists about what is happening in these places. He’s read lots of the BNC’s comments on the Syrian conflict and responded. Here’s what he had to say.
As all charities have limited resources, is it worth spending so much money on aid for Syria when there is a huge chance it will be demolished, would it be better to spend it elsewhere where charities money will be better utilised?
By Chronicyouth, Malcolm Arnold Academy
The British public has been very generous and has donated money that they’d like us to spend in Syria. That doesn’t mean we ignore people in other countries that are also in need.
The Red Cross is present all around the world, helping in times of conflict and natural disasters. For example, we were part of the huge relief efforts after the Nepal and Haiti earthquakes, and we also work in Iraq and Yemen and we are also supporting the refugees and asylum seekers in Europe and the UK.
Wherever people are in need, we believe they should be helped. The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement is one of the biggest providers of humanitarian aid and assistance in the world.
We are protected by our symbol, which we call the Red Cross emblem. This emblem gives us the authority to help people around the world, it also means that our staff and volunteers can have direct access to the people we are helping. This individual focus means that the things we give, whether that is food, medicines or other supplies, go directly to people with much less chance of things getting lost and destroyed.
If you want to find out more about all the different thing we do as the British Red Cross, check out our website: www.redcross.org.uk
Why do you help by sending aid not military assistants? St Peter’s Primary School
This is a really good question and the answer is very important. The Red Cross movement was founded 150 years ago and ever since we have always been impartial and neutral – that means that we don’t take sides.
Our job is to look after people that have been hurt, or are sick, or in need of help, no matter who they are. It’s up to governments and country leaders to sort out the reasons for why there is fighting. The Red Cross movement calls for peace and to spread the culture of non-violence.
Are there a lot of risks going into Syria? Nermal45, St Peter’s Primary School
Syria can be a very dangerous place. It is important that all Red Cross staff and volunteers are safe. We have security and safety teams who make sure before we do anything it is safe to do it.
Sometimes bad things might happen, even to us, but we have to keep going because people need us. The Red Cross symbol, which we call the emblem, means protection. People around the world recognise it as a symbol of neutrality, which means that all our staff and volunteers don’t take sides in any conflict.
The emblem has two purposes:
- To protect sick and wounded victims of war, and those authorised to care for them.
- To indicate that the person or object on which the emblem is displayed is connected with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
This helps keeps us safe. You can find out more about the special symbol on our website: http://www.redcross.org.uk/About-us/Who-we-are/The-international-Movement/The-emblem
How much does it cost per child to assist and possibly nurse to health? Have you ever used your own money to help the children?– Bessiebear & MissMingo, Grace Academy Coventry
In Syria, it costs about £27 to help a family of five people for a month with a food parcel that includes basic items such as rice, sugar, tea, oil, chick peas, canned tuna and canned sardines, as well as some other food items. All the basic things that families need to feed themselves for a month.
We are very lucky because the British public donates money to our Syria Crisis Appeal so that we can help these families and children. Because we’re a charity, most of our income comes from these generous donations.
Should charities and other countries get involved in someone’s war?
SlamDunkDiscloser, Grace Academy Coventry
Hi SlamDunkDiscolser, really good question. We believe that as an independent and impartial organisation, it is not up to us to get involved in any conflict.
We exist to help people and this is our primary concern. When countries are in conflict, we ask both sides to talk to each other to try and reach a solution, but our job is to make sure people have access to food, water and shelter and other things they need to stay safe.
How come you just give things to support them in the country, when you can just take them out of the country for good to stop them from being at risk for gun shot?
Tasmanian Devil, Grace Academy Coventry
Thank you for your question Tasmanian Devil, a lot of people ask this one. Many people do flee conflict when they feel they, or their family, are in a lot of danger. You may have seen on the news that many people are making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean to get somewhere safe.
However, many people aren’t able to travel, or don’t want to leave their country. This is entirely up to them. We are there to look after them if they need us. We also work a lot with both sides of the fighting to make sure that normal people are not hurt in the conflict.
I don’t think we should send any military to intervene. Instead, I think we should just send aid, as any time we’ve tried to get involved with another country’s problem, it ends up worse. However, with helping civilians, you can’t really do anything wrong with that.
Grace Academy Solihull
Thanks for this comment guys, and we agree that helping people is really important. That is why we exist.
Are you sure you are actually doing something for the people who are in need? That your things you have spent time raising money for are not going to a cause you don’t support, or that they are being somehow destroyed?
Bluejournal, St Peter’s Primary School
Thank you Bluejournal, that’s a really good question. We are very careful about how donations are used and anyone at any time can ask us questions about where they money goes.
The Red Cross is the biggest humanitarian charity in the world; we are present all over the world. In Syria, we work with our colleagues in the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.
They are just like the British Red Cross, they exist to help people in Syria, and they do everything from first aid, to helping deliver really important food parcels and providing health care. They make sure that the people that need us get the support they deserve, and because they are from Syria and live in these communities already, they are really well placed to make sure this happens. We’re also very careful to make sure that the things we buy for people are protected.
There is a special law that means that our Red Cross symbol, which we call the emblem, is protected, that means that when either side of the people fighting see the Red Cross or Red Crescent, they know that it’s us and that they shouldn’t attack us. You can find out more about the special symbol on our website: http://www.redcross.org.uk/About-us/Who-we-are/The-international-Movement/The-emblem
People trapped in war are found in all sorts of terrible conditions. What is the worst condition you’ve ever found someone in? Were you able to support them enough so that they could get back on their feet?
– Exi~Corn, Grace Academy Coventry
Sadly Exi~Corn, there are many millions of people suffering all over the world. But we cannot compare one person’s suffering to another.
We do everything we can to help people and we do that in many different ways. In Syria, people that used to farm and have animals lost everything. We work with them to provide sheep that are ready to have lambs. It was really nice to see these farmers able to work again and begin to build a new future for their families.
You can read more about it on our website: http://blogs.redcross.org.uk/appeals/2017/01/syria-crisis-two-sheep-welcome-home/
How do you help people without getting bombed?
Gowry5, Grace Academy Coventry
Thank you for your question Gowry5. We do everything we can to protect ourselves, sadly sometimes, we can also get hurt. In times of conflict it is very dangerous, but we have people working all the time to make sure our staff and volunteers are safe.
We also have the special symbol of the Red Cross, which is actually protected by law. It means that when people see it, they should not attack us. If they do, then they are breaking the law because we do not fight, we are there to help people. Most of the time this works and people let us do our jobs safely, but sadly, sometimes, it can go wrong.
I think that all we should do is give aid to Syria such as food and recourses they need to live but nothing else, no weapon giving or anything like that because Syria has a big problem and it is not our job to solve it. If we help Syria by sending troops there, Russia will be angry and of course Bashar al- Assad too. There is a 100 percent chance Assad will ask Russia to stop the troops we send and because Russia have a strong army they will send bombs to England and to kill us so we stop helping Syrian people .So in my eyes this is the big issue we need to deeply think about.
Skully-tition, North Beckton Primary School
Thank you Skilly-tition. The Red Cross doesn’t get involved in anything to do with fighting or weapons. Our job is to help people that may be hurt or hungry, or unable to help their children or families. We think everyone involved should talk to each other to try and reach a peaceful solution and we hope that this happens soon.
If aid and supportive foundations were suddenly disrupted by the society of Syria, what is the consequence and how will it be resolved discreetly?
Rich154, Grace Academy Coventry
Hi Rich154, that is a tough one. If aid was disrupted that would mean that millions of people wouldn’t get help. Every month, our colleagues from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent help around 4.5 million people with different things like food, water and health care.
It’s really important that humanitarian aid is allowed to move around Syria, so it can reach the people that really need it. At the Red Cross we work really hard to make sure that happens, we talk to all sides to make sure that our people and our supplies can get through to different areas safely.
What’s happened in your life to make you want to help other people in need?
Catipie, Grace Academy Coventry
Hi Catipie, I do the job because I enjoy it and I believe that the Red Cross has the necessary skills, knowledge, resources and people to really help those in need.
Working with the British Red Cross allows me to meet and work alongside incredible people from all around the world, which I find really exciting.
It is really great how we all come together, regardless of where we’re from or what language we speak, to help people that need our support. I’m really proud of being part of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement.
How would you like the war to end?
Hornsey School for Girls
Thank you for your question. We hope that a peaceful solution can be found for Syria. We are now approaching the 6th year of the conflict, that’s as long as the Second World War. Many millions of people have lost their homes, their jobs, their possessions. We hope that when the conflict ends they will be able to return home. We will continue to support the people in Syria for as long as they need us to.
You said…(this is an imagined scenario from a BNC member)
I am a 9 year old boy,my father died in war and my mother died at birth.Im walking around lots of people and afraid the Islamic state will bomb any second now. I only get 1 meal a day and that is what ever I find in the junk yard.Some people are taking me into their lives like I am family to them but others are evil.I know they are not my family but they are the only people who are taking care of me so I better make the most of it.I love them like a family I am scared to die so please Britain,France send in anything to help me.
#the guy, North Beckton Primary School
Hi #theguy, Sadly, it is not uncommon to hear stories like this one. Many people have fled the conflict in Syria, or conflicts in other countries, and find themselves alone and not sure about what to do.
The Red Cross is present along the whole migratory route, that means the different countries that people pass through to try and reach safety, and we help them however we can. Our work in the UK is really important, we work with thousands of asylum seekers and refugees in the UK, helping them get used to their new life.
We work with young people as well. Some are really young and have come here on their own. We can help them track down their families, or help them to learn English and other skills they may need.
You can find out more about the different ways we help people on our website: http://www.redcross.org.uk/What-we-do/Refugee-support