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London Fire Brigade Donates Equipment To Support Syria, Helping To Save 50,000 Lives

03/02/2016 17:08 | Updated 03 February 2016

Firefighters from the London Fire Brigade have helped to save the lives of 50,000 Syrians by donating equipment to volunteer search and rescue workers in the war-torn state.

Helmets, saws, compressors, power pacts and nail guns are among the resources given to the team of 2,900 volunteers in Syria.

A picture posted to Twitter shows Raed Saleh, the head of a Syrian civil defence force, The White Helmets, in an LFB uniform during a visit to the UK.

The tweet reads: "We #SupportSyrians by donating equipment that is used by @SyriaCivilDef & has helped save over 50k lives in #Syria"

World leaders are gathering in London this week for the Support Syria conference.

The meeting is aimed at raising billions of pounds for Syrian refugees to help millions of people whose lives have been torn apart by the devastating war.

But while policymakers discuss the intricacies of providing further aid, organisations like the London Fire Brigade have already donated materials to workers on the ground.

An LFB spokesman told the Huffington Post UK that the equipment donated has helped the rescue workers to save 50,000 lives in Syria.

He said: "Because of the lack of electricity that they have, the hydraulic equipment that we have supplied has been instrumental (to their rescue efforts)."

Firefighters, working alongside the Foreign Office, have been donating supplies over the last few months.

Former Labour MP David Miliband has said that Thursday's conference "has to go beyond pledges".

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Also on the Huffington Post UK:
7 Deadly Threats That Prove Just How Hard Everyday Life Is For Civilians In Syria

  • Hunger and Starvation
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    The plight of besieged Syrians in the town of Madaya has prompted an international humanitarian response (AP Photo)

    Hunger, starvation and malnourishment present a threat to millions of Syria's most vulnerable people, with the town of Madaya, north west of Damascus, highlighting the reality of conditions on the ground.

    The young, elderly, and infirm are particularly susceptible to the effects of malnutrition, which can stunt the growth of children, and exacerbate chronic medical conditions.

    Unicef deputy director Lily Caprani told HuffPost UK about the effects long-term malnourishment are having as the Syrian conflict enters its fifth year. She said: "There’s hunger in the short term, and then malnutrition over the longer term severely and in some cases irreversibly damages children’s development, so a child who at the age of two or three is undernourished can physical stop growing.

    “Unfortunately there are some cases where that cannot be undone. We’re trying to stop getting it to that stage."

    Unicef continues to work in Syria, and it estimates it has helped the majority of those who need help in accessible areas. That still leaves as many as two million out of reach of aid, however.

    Towns which are besieged by fighting are particularly difficult to access. Madaya had become so dire that the UN estimated 400 residents needed to be immediately evacuated to receive life-saving treatment. Their conditions related to extreme malnourishment and starvation, as well as medical conditions.

  • Exposure To The Cold
    KARAM AL-MASRI via Getty Images
    Syrian boys play with snow following a storm in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on January 5

    Exposure to the elements is becoming a concern for aid agencies operating in and around Syria with temperatures plummeting to an average low of just 7 degrees Celsius.

    Harsh winters bring snow, ice, and chilling winds - making for harrowing conditions in houses lacking electricity and in the refugee camps bordering on vast, desolate landscapes.

    "One of the key things we worry about every year in that on top of everything else, we now have extreme cold," Lily Caprani of Unicef UK says, "Although we're doing everything we can to help them, they're living in tents, in containers."

    The organisation is leading a campaign to keep children warm this winter with hats, gloves and scalfs.

    "Many of the refugees in... countries such as Jordan and Lebanon live in terrible conditions and are struggling to find warmth as temperatures fall," Robert Mardini, director for the Near and Middle East with the International Committee of the Red Cross, told Al Jazeera.

    "They live with the uncertainty of not knowing what tomorrow will bring, or even if they will ever make it back home one day."
  • Barrel Bombs
    Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
    Syrians searching for survivors in the rubble of destroyed buildings following barrel bomb attacks by the Syrian air forces on February 2, 2014, in Aleppo, Syria.

    Barrel bombs continue to rain down on Syrian cities. The improvised devices are thrown from transport helicopters, without the ability to hit specific targets.

    According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, the number of civilians killed by Syrian regime barrel bombs outnumbers those slain by the so-called Islamic State and al-Qaeda.

    Jeremy Binnie, Middle East editor for IHS Jane's Defence Weekly, told HuffPost UK that the bombs were developed due to either a lack of weaponry or aircraft around a year or so into the current conflict.

    He said: “While early ones appeared to be similar in size to oil barrels, the ones that have been seen generally have a smaller diameter.

    “They were first seen in the summer of 2012.

    “They are a way of turning the Syrian air force’s Mi-8/17 helicopters into attack aircraft as the improvised bombs can be rolled out the rear cargo doors.”

    “The bombs are capable of destroying buildings and killing people, but almost certainly have less explosive power than mass-produced aircraft bombs of similar size."
  • Airstrikes
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    A Russian bomber drops bombs on a target. Russia has unleashed another barrage of airstrikes against targets in Syria

    Airstrikes from foreign forces continue to pose a threat to civilian life - however unintended this may be.

    In December, at least 26 people were believed to have been killed following US-led airstrikes attacking suspected Isis positions.

    The Guardian reported Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as saying so-called Islamic State is in control of Al-Khan but is only on its outskirts, “which is why all of the deaths were civilians”.

    The US military command said it was investigating the claims.

    Britain's RAF, which received Parliamentary authority to commence airstrikes last December, says it is able to say no civilians have died as a result of its recent action in Syria.
  • Dirty Water and Disease
    Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
    A health worker marks the thumb of a Syrian child after giving him polio vaccine (File Photo)

    Dirty water and the resulting disease pose a continued threat to Syrians living in increasingly unsanitary conditions.

    Last year, a flesh-eating disease spread across the country. Leishmaniasis has been common to Syria for centuries and was once commonly known as “Aleppo evil”.

    Unicef is one of a number of aid agencies working to mitigate the risks, but even it admits that millions of Syrian children and adults who continue to be at risk in areas that cannot be easily reached.

    While the threat continues to be high - disease is one of the areas of success for agencies trying hard to prevent a public health disaster dovetailing with the fierce conflict.

    Lily Caprani of Unicef told HuffPost UK: "We’re making sure children and the vulnerable are immunized against water-borne disease, because we know they are going to be exposed to disease so we make sure they’re going to be protected.

    “This can help prevent a public health disaster. One of the very few pieces of good news is that you would expect the resurgence of disease and infections we would normally not see.

    “But because we’ve managed to immunise we’ve prevented this. There have been no new cases of polio since January 2014 and that’s short of a miracle.

    "It’s relatively cheap to do - it doesn’t cost a lot of money and it prevents the snowball effect of a public health emergency."

    Nonetheless, the shocking state of health uncovered in Madaya in January points towards localised medical emergencies being commonplace in some areas in the country.
  • Torture and Execution
    Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
    A visitor looks at pictures from 'Caesar's Photos: Inside Syria's Secret Prisons', a collection of images smuggled out of the country last year

    Torture and execution remain a threat to civilian life throughout Syria, with hundreds allegedly killed at the hands of President Assad's regime alone.

    Syria has systematically tortured and executed 11,000 of its citizens in the three-year war, according to a report by former war crimes prosecutors, who compared the bodies they saw to images of Nazi death camp victims.

    Meanwhile Islamic State has been adept at publicising its regime's torture and execution, even publishing reports in its own magazine, with countless Syrians and scores of foreigners killed in the now signature orange jumpsuits.

    In January, the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights reported that an Islamic State militant executed his own mother, after she encouraged him to leave the terror group.
  • Violence, Exploitation and Kidnapping
    Imgorthand via Getty Images
    Violence and exploitation resulting from the break down of Syrian society present a real threat to the lives of adults and children alike, whilst kidnapping remains a tactic of fear used by militants.

    There are countless examples of violence between warring factions spilling over into civilian communities, wounding and killing innocent people.

    Unicef's experience of conflict emergencies across the world has led it to the conclusion that education can protect children from violence and exploitation.

    Lily Caprani told HuffPost UK: "If children are in education, they’re in a safe space. If children are in a safe environment with safe people, the risks of violence and exploitation are lower.

    "This protects children from adults who might not have their best interests at heart."

    Kidnapping by Islamic State militants continues to present a real threat to civilian life. Last year, hundreds of innocent people were taken by the group amid mounting international calls for the release of those abducted.

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