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Kiwi firefighters aid Syrian White Helmets

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 26/10/2016

The New Zealand Fire Service is set to lend a hand to Syria's wartime first responders, the White Helmets.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully has announced the New Zealand Fire Service will next month send an urban search and rescue expert to Jordan and Turkey to help train volunteers in the Syrian Civil Defence Organisation.

The group, nicknamed the White Helmets, is believed to have saved thousands of lives through emergency response and rescue operations in rebel-held areas of war-torn Syria.

The government will also put $100,000 behind the training programme, with the current total New Zealand spend on aid in Syria and Iraq at about $25 million.

"We want to share New Zealand's globally recognised expertise in urban search and rescue with the White Helmets, and show our support for a volunteer organisation which is doing remarkable work in badly damaged cities like Aleppo," Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne said.

"[This] is a welcome, practical and meaningful humanitarian contribution by New Zealand to the people directly affected by the appalling conflict in Syria."

The training will run for about four months from the end of October.

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