Frontline humanitarian workers capture the heartache and hopes of the recently displaced from Aleppo.

With so much attention on the numbers of people fleeing fighting, UNHCR staff and partners on the ground share a rare glimpse into the lives of those desperately seeking safety.

After months living under besiegement, thousands of east Aleppo residents crossed the line of fire to find safety. Families arriving were exhausted and traumatised.

Namaa’s Out-Reach Volunteers are in the Mahalej shelter ready to welcome newly arriving families. New arrivals have complex needs – but are greeted with a helping hand.

Aleppo, a once thriving city, witnessed ferocious fighting. The UN had no direct access to the besieged east of the city for five months.

The level of destruction in the Hanano neighbourhoods was shocking. “There’s a lot more damage than meets the eye” expressed Mustafa, our Senior Protection Assistant in Aleppo.

The children are so full of life! They give us the energy we need to carry on with our response.” Said Frederick Wilkinson, UNHCR’s Protection Officer in Aleppo.

UNHCR and partners on the ground provide protection services, including psychological counselling. Many of those arriving are deeply traumatised, including children.

This young child was holding a broken camera, an aid worker asked the little photographer to take a selfie with her and he happily accepted.

Face painting is very popular among the children. As described by one of Al-Taalouf’s Out-Reach Volunteers, this 4-year-old girl, displaced from east Aleppo took the activity very seriously.

After living under the shadow of war for six years, children relish a chance to be children. “Their wonderful spirit renders me speechless”, said an outreach volunteer.

This 4-year old’s eyes sparkled as she had her face painted by a volunteer. “I can’t wait to show it to my mother!”

Insufficient and inadequate shelter space continues to be one of the most pressing humanitarian needs on the ground, especially in the cold weather.

On December 10 and 11, an estimated 6,750 newly displaced persons arrived from east Aleppo to the Mahalej transitional shelter. New arrivals line up to register their names in order to receive much needed humanitarian support.

UNHCR are working with partners to quickly rehabilitate structures to boost shelter capacity and secure a warm, safe place for the displaced families.

Newly arrived families wait for their turn to enter the shelter. Capacity is stretched at Mahalej – UNHCR and other humanitarian organisations are scaling up the operation to meet people’s needs.

UNHCR and its partners are scaling up their humanitarian response in Aleppo to meet the needs of the newly displaced, as well as those previously displaced in western Aleppo. Alongside food, water and protection services, one of the most pressing humanitarian needs is finding secure shelter for the newly displaced.

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Story by Shaza Shekfeh with contributions from Mustafa Rihawi in Aleppo.

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