The following interview was conducted by Kinan Diab, World Vision communications officer in Turkey. He spoke with Shihab* who had been evacuated from Aleppo just hours earlier.
Q: When did you manage to get out and how?
A: "The buses started picking people around 12:00 a.m. It was a chaos; the number of people were way too much for the buses. I didn’t manage to get into one before 5:30 a.m.
"I can’t describe how it was. There are no words to describe how we felt. There were a lot of families and children. No one was organising anything. People were just keen to get out. A lot of people got pushed around, sometimes beaten.
"People came with their luggage, whatever they could bring with the, but there was no space. People had to leave their stuff lying in the road and just get on the bus. Later on in the night, it became too cold for us. To warm up, people started fires with their luggage, keeping only two sets of clothing with them. I was one of the people who burned their belongings just to feel a bit warmth."
Q: Are you in a safe area now?
A: "I’m in Idlib governorate, where it’s relevantly safe. But, as long as these jets are flying around, no one is safe."
Q: What was it like living in the besieged area?
A: "It is so hard to describe. We are humiliated because we feel that we were forced to leave our homes. But we had no other choice.
"Some people didn’t have bread for 6 months and the bread we had was not actually real bread. We had to grind beans to make it into a flour-like substance to bake. Even that was super expensive. Everything was either not available or super expensive. The NGOs’ warehouses were either empty or impacted in a bombing. The
"Everything was either not available or super expensive. The NGOs’ warehouses were either empty or impacted in a bombing. The bazaars (markets) were targeted directly as well, so we couldn’t even go there (to shop for food).
"We didn’t have water, and there was no electricity to power the pumps. A lot of people had cases of acute diarrhoea."
Q: Were supplies needed to care for babies available?
A: We had baby milk at the beginning. But, when the NGO’s warehouses were impacted in a bombing, the milk was destroyed. Diapers were rare to find and expensive. There was a monopoly for items that were hard to find."
Q: Did people have access to health care facilities?
A: "All hospitals were targeted in bombings. I went to the [a] hospital and it smelled like a slaughterhouse because all of the blood. The floor was literally, and I’m not exaggerating, it was literally covered with blood: dry blood and new blood. The staff were too busy dealing with new casualties every minute.
"Patients were on the floor, lining the hallways and corridors. Doctors were operating on two patients at the same time in operation rooms, sometimes more. I saw an operation conducted in a hallway. It was too crowded."
Q: Where are people staying now and what are your needs?
A: "Some of them are staying with relatives now. Some people don’t have any place to go to.
"We need shelter, clothing, blankets and food. The basic stuff, you know. You can say that we need everything to start a new home.
"Every single person from Aleppo is in a psychological shock. We felt like this even with just the bombings. this situation has only made it worse."