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Support for emergency workers

White Helmets cleaning up and reopening a road,

White Helmets cleaning up and reopening a road,, © Syria Civil Defence (White Helmets)

17.12.2020 - Article

For many people in northern Syria, the members of Syria Civil Defence are heroes: they are first responders, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and technical relief workers. The Federal Foreign Office helps these emergency workers do their important work.

Providing a wide range of assistance

Syria Civil Defence, also referred to as White Helmets, is an organisation of volunteer first responders. The organisation performs many different tasks, including search and rescue operations to attend to victims of air strikes and armed attacks. White Helmets provide a wide range of other assistance, as well: medical transport, emergency medical services and fire brigade operations. Because coronavirus is also spreading in Syria, the White Helmets educate the public about safety measures and distribute protective equipment.

To help, they need support

Without support from the outside, the White Helmets cannot perform their tasks. That is why, through its implementing partner Chemonics International, the Federal Foreign Office provided 5.1 million euro in aid to the White Helmets in 2020. In this way, Germany has been supporting the following activities, among others:

  • Search and rescue teams that provide assistance in the wake of air strikes and natural events such as floods. These teams pull people from the rubble and provide them with medical care. They put out fires. They repair damaged water supply lines and electrical infrastructure. When fighting escalates, they arrange for the evacuation of civilians from the affected areas. They give important information to the public about correct behaviour in emergencies and directly provide emergency medical care themselves.
  • Women’s centres in north-western Syria at which women and girls are given medical advice and care. At these centres, White Helmets provide education about COVID‑19 and the necessary hygiene measures and answer other health-related questions.
  • Clearance teams that defuse and dispose of unexploded ordnance and other dangerous materials. These highly specialised workers identify areas that may contain unexploded ordnance, mines or other hazardous substances, alert people to the dangers they pose and defuse unexploded ordnance.

Who are the White Helmets?

Due to the lack of functioning state structures in the wake of many years of armed conflict, Syria Civil Defence, commonly referred to as the White Helmets, was established in 2013 to deliver emergency assistance. They have been doing their important work in opposition-controlled areas to this day. According to the White Helmets, they have saved more than 100,000 lives during the course of the conflict in Syria.

They perform their work based on a humanitarian pledge of allegiance, namely, to rescue the victims of air strikes regardless of their ethnicity, political views or religious affiliation.

For many people in Syria and around the world, the White Helmets have come to symbolise hope and civic courage. More than 280 of them have died in operations. The White Helmets have received many international prizes, including the so‑called “Alternative Nobel Prize” and the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights.

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