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Battle over but Syria’s humanitarian crisis gets worse

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Aid group says the crisis in the war-torn city will continue for months

Edinburgh-based aid charity Mercy Corps warns that Raqqa’s humanitarian crisis will continue for months to come, and it is unlikely that people will return to the city in the near term.

Raqqa, in Syria, became the Islamic Sates’ defacto capital and scene of hundreds of executions but is now a crumbling wreck after Syrian forces – backed by western air strikes – finally forced the rebels out this week.

More than 200,000 people have been displaced from Raqqa - formerly Syria’s sixth-largest city.

Mercy Corps is delivering urgently needed food and supplies to people displaced from the city and surrounding villages, including mattresses, blankets, hygiene supplies, new baby kits and cooking sets.

“The end of the battle represents an acute moment of human crisis. Explosive devices and other remnants of war will put families trying to return to their homes in great jeopardy,” said Arnaud Quemin, Mercy Corps country director for Syria.

“Approximately 80% of the city is uninhabitable, water sources have been damaged by the conflict and there are no health services available in the city. Despite the challenges, people are anxious to return home or find more solid shelter before the onset of winter.”

In the past year, Mercy Corps met the urgent needs of 950,000 people inside Syria by distributing emergency food and supplies, increasing access to clean water and sanitation, improving shelters and creating safe spaces and activities to help children heal from trauma.

Quemin added: “During the fighting, we saw hundreds of people flee their homes each day. Mercy Corps’ teams and partners are delivering food and essential supplies, but we’re very concerned about the massive humanitarian needs.

“The military operation may be over, but that doesn’t mean that families are safe now or have a home to go back to.”