Damascus Civil Defense scramble to meet personnel, equipment shortages


June 16, 2015

The Civil Defense (White Helmets) in the Damascus countryside is suffering from a lack of personnel and equipment that is damaging the organization’s ability to save civilians injured in attacks on rebel-controlled areas, a spokesman for the organization told Syria Direct Tuesday.

“Because of a lack of machinery to move rubble, extracting the injured and bringing them to the hospital takes a lot of time…for example, a child was stuck between two ceilings of a building, and it took 12 hours to get him out,” Mahmud Adam, a spokesman for the Civil Defense, told Syria Direct Tuesday.

“By that time he had died.”

Fire trucks, earth-moving machinery, fuel, fire hoses, and other forms of heavy equipment are few and far between, Adam added.

On Monday, one hundred and fifty volunteers completed a month-long training course in the Damascus countryside, in an attempt to raise the technical capabilities of the overstretched rescue organization, Qassem al-Masarwa, head of the Civil Defense in the Damascus Countryside, told Syria Direct Tuesday.

The volunteers were trained in “putting out fires…evacuating injured from indiscriminate bombings and saving injured from the rubble,” but there are not enough of them to cover the White Helmets’ need for personnel, al-Masarwa said.

“After the success of this course, we’ll announce more courses soon [to make up for] the current personnel shortage.” Al-Masarqa added that the organization seeks to recruit more women “considering there are injured women and girls and sometimes we can’t deal with them as we would with men.”

Because of the job description, the Civil Defense says it takes on only those volunteers who are mentally equipped to handle the work.

New recruits must possess “a powerful personality and an ability to bear hardships,” said al-Masarwa.

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