Nearly six months ago, the Syrian Coalition sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General and ambassadors of friendly countries to stress the importance of allowing residents of Raqqa to administer the ravaged city by themselves. The letter also stressed the need to preserve the civil registry and real estate records in the city.
The United Nations on Thursday issued a report on the current situation in the city. The report indicated that though civilian life is returning slowly to the decimated city, the humanitarian tragedy continues to unfold because its real reasons continue to be ignored.
The report, which was issued under the title ‘Life Returns to Raqqa Despite Challenges, said that teams of the UN World Food Program (WFP) visited the city of Raqqa in early April to assess the needs of civilians.
WFP Country Director in Syria Jacob Kern said that this is the first time the United Nations team visits Raqqa.
“One has to imagine that the city starting from scratch. Records are destroyed, and perhaps two thirds of the buildings have been destroyed, and our estimate is that 100,000 people live in their homes,” Kern said.
Jan Egeland, UN Special Envoy’s Senior Adviser, on Wednesday said that humanitarian workers who visited Raqqa said they had not seen such devastation before. “It seems worse than what was seen after the battle of Aleppo and the battle of Homs ended.” Raqqa was mostly reduced to rubble following bitter fighting between ISIS militants and militias of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who captured the city in October 2017.
“It is still a city without a functioning public service… There is one functioning private hospital, there is no real police law and order, no real services in terms of public records, IDs, marriage certificates, birth certificate or anything. That has to come under control because there is another 100,000 people just outside of Raqqa wanting to return to the place,” Egeland added.
The United Nations has described its mission to Raqqa as difficult because of restrictions on movement and poor internet access and phone connectivity.
WFP quoted a woman who lives in Raqqa as saying: “We don’t get any water at home and drink water we buy in tanks but, even then, the water is not clean. God knows what diseases we may get from drinking this unhealthy water. When I fill a cup of water I can see the dirt settling at the bottom.”
WFP said that with few jobs available, many of the people returning to Raqqa cannot afford the basics such as food, clothes and other living necessities. Many buy bread and basic foods on credit.
“Unemployment in Raqqa is very high thereby impacting people’s purchasing power. Many people are buying on credit or selling their assets to be able to buy things, such as food and otherwise,” WFP added.
“Herding is a key business in Raqqa, but traders told us that some people are selling their sheep to make money and fix their homes or build a house or buy things they need including food.”
The Syrian Coalition earlier urged the international community to ensure the return of Raqqa residents to their homes, help restore stability, and ensure protection for warehouses where the civil register documents and real estate records are kept.
The Coalition called for the withdrawal of all armed forces from inside the city and allowing residents of Raqqa to set up a local administration to manage their affairs by themselves.
The Coalition emphasized “it stood ready to provide a team to follow up on the issue and provide any information that ensures that these records are protected and transferred to a safe place as soon as possible.” It also said that “such measures are needed to prevent further losses and chaos as well as to protect what remained of the Syrians’ rights in the province of Raqqa in general and the city of Raqqa in particular. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)