Aleppo Struggles To Provide For Basic Needs As Syrian Troops Close In
09 August 2014
By Shelly Kittleson
The single, heavily damaged supply road remaining into
the rebel-held, eastern area of the city is acutely
exposed to enemy fire.
All lorries with wheat for the areas' underground
bakeries, soap for hygiene purposes, and fuel for
vehicles and generators travel by this route. While
snipers focus on this road and other frontlines
throughout the city, barrel bombing by Syrian troops
is meanwhile steadily, painfully reducing the rest of
the city to rubble.
Although many areas are now under the control of the
more moderate Islamic Front, al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat
al-Nusra helps provide for basic needs in some areas
where the underfunded Syrian National Council-linked
administration is unable to do so.
IPS watched as members of the armed group handed out
metre-long rectangular blocks of ice, after they slid
down a metal shaft to armed men waiting to give them
to inhabitants waiting nearby who have been without
electricity and running water for months.
‘'They're good people,'' said one inhabitant of the
city, who nonetheless had been arrested by them for
undisclosed reasons a few months back. ‘'They're
In private, however, many Syrians say that they are
not happy with the group, though it is ‘'not anywhere
near as bad as ‘Daeesh' (the Islamic State, formerly
known as ISIS)."
Inside the Aleppo city council offices, bright red
filing cabinets and a new coat of white paint mark a
sharp contrast with the crumbling buildings and
concrete slabs hanging precariously above streets
where those left continue to go about their daily
affairs as best they can.
‘'We have been hit many times, but we need to show
that we will keep rebuilding,'' one employee said.
Council chief Abdelaziz Al-Maghrebi, a former teacher
and manager at a textile factory, walks with a limp
from what he says was an injury from a tank bomb never
The council has civil registry, education, legal
affairs and civil defence directorates - and an office
for electricity, water, sewage, and rubbish – but
often receives no money from the
‘government-in-exile', said Mohammed Saidi, financial
manager of the council.
‘'The amount of money depends on the month, and no
money was received from the SNC in July.''
However, Saidi stressed, all reports of siphoning off
of money by members ‘'are false''.
Private donors and foundations play a large part in
the council's budget as well, and ‘'funding depends on
the project proposals that are accepted'', he said.
One of the recent proposals was for underground
shelters, which the head of the civil defence
directorate – established at the council only recently
after long acting as an entirely volunteer force –
told IPS had been granted four months ago, and 16 of
which had since been built.
For medical needs, doctor Ibrahim Alkhalil, head of
the Aleppo health directorate for rebel areas, said
that as doctors and hospitals continue to be targeted,
the location of medical facilities ‘'has to be kept
confidential and change frequently''.
The doctor, who is Syrian but who spent most of his
professional career in Saudi Arabia and only came back
after the uprising started, noted that everything was
in short supply or lacking entirely: antibiotics,
water, electricity and trained staff.
He added that the lack of maintenance for vehicles and
the terrible road conditions meant that many people
were dying simply from being unable to reach the few
existing medical centres.
Moreover, the local council can afford to provide
funds only to some medical facilities that do not
receive any from other donors, council chief Al-Maghrebi
Alkhalil pointed out, however, that no amount of
supplies would solve the main problem if ‘'the regime
isn't stopped from killing and injuring in the first
A truck with lights switched off to avoid attracting
Syrian troop's aircraft attention often makes its way
through the streets of a central neighbourhood at
night, calling out ‘haleeb', ‘haleeb' (‘milk').
A number of children in the area have been hit by
snipers while crossing a street now ‘protected' by a
bullet-riddled sheet of canvas meant to reduce
In another area, Salahheddin – the ‘first liberated
area of Aleppo' and the very name of which retains a
sort of mythical status in the eyes of some – children
laugh and play soccer in the empty street near the
frontline after nightfall. The blood of a boy hit by a
sniper recently still stains the ground nearby.
Despite the constant risk of government snipers, IPS
was told, near the frontlines was often the ‘'safest
place, since it is too close to regime areas for them
to drop barrel bombs on.'
IPS was asked by a freckled, red-haired boy barely out
of his late teens now working for a local Muslim
charity, ‘'Why have you come here? What is there left
The boy works to get charities abroad to help his
organisation provide 50 dollars per month to the
neediest widows and orphans of those killed in the
fighting and for food packages.
A barrel bomb outside the charity's offices killed a
good friend and co-worker about 15 days ago. Sandbags
are now stacked in front of windows and, according to
another volunteer, over half of the staff left
immediately after the incident, either for other parts
of the country or for Turkey – or they simply no
longer come to the office out of fear, a niqab-clad
woman also working at the organisation said.
The charity has an underground bakery with which it
normally provides bread to those in need, but its
equipment had broken down a few days prior to IPS's
visit. It was unclear when it would be fixed, whether
the spare parts needed could be brought into the city,
and whether Syrian troops might soon take the one road