Expressing shock at the scale of the devastation in Aleppo, Filippo Grandi, the head of the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR today called for accelerated and immediate humanitarian assistance for millions of people trying to rebuild war-shattered lives in Syria.

“There are people here – some of them are returning to these ruins – who need help, immediate help. They are cold, they are hungry, they need to work to earn some money. They need the elementary things in life,” he declared in a statement after touring the ancient city of Aleppo on the third day of a landmark visit to Syria.

Grandi, who on Monday visited Homs, added: “We need resources, irrespective of all the politics around this war. This is absolutely necessary and urgent for millions of people in Syria. We saw it in Damascus, we saw it in Homs, we see it in Aleppo … All the Syrian people need help. We cannot abandon them because the crisis is not over.”

"Everything has been ruined."

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said that despite following the conflict closely nothing had prepared him for the immensity of the destruction he witnessed in Aleppo.

“The level of destruction is much bigger than I thought… I didn’t imagine it would be this widespread. You drive for miles and miles you see destroyed civilian houses, destroyed schools, destroyed hospitals. Everything has been ruined,” he said.

Filippo Grandi meets children at the Jibreen shelter in Aleppo, Syria. Jibreen is now home to over 5,000 people displaced during fighting in the city.

Image © UNHCR/Firas Al-Khateeb

Calling for “massive investment” for reconstruction, Grandi said peace and stability had first to take hold – and rapidly — saying people could not wait any longer.

“These ruins speak for themselves. When you see children’s clothes hanging out of windows, kitchens cut in half by shells and rockets, the real lives of people interrupted by war as it was happening, I think this will weigh very heavily on the conscience of the world for generations,” he added.

A resident of east Aleppo talks to UN refugee head Filippo Grandi. She fled her home when the battle for the eastern neighbourhoods erupted. Today she has returned and is receiving UNHCR relief assistance.

Image © UNHCR/Bassam Diab

Grandi made an impassioned plea to the world to renew solidarity with those suffering from the effects of conflict in Syria and other places such as Iraq, Somalia and Yemen.

“The world has to go back to solidarity, has to think again of these people – not with fear, not with suspicion, but with open arms, with an open mind, with an open heart. They need help, they need protection while the war goes on. One day, they will come back here, and they will reconstruct these cities. But now, in their hour of need, we cannot forget their plight – we need to help them,” his statement concluded.

Story by Warda Aljawahiry in Aleppo, Syria

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