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A decade of fighting in Syria has brought nothing but ruin and misery for the people
by UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs, agencies
10:51am 4th Feb, 2020
12 Mar. 2020
UN Secretary-General António Guterres: “The conflict in Syria is entering its tenth year. A decade of fighting has brought nothing but ruin and misery. And civilians are paying the gravest price. There is no military solution. Now it is the time to give diplomacy a chance to work", he wrote.
Overall, more than 11 million people across Syria require aid relief, nearly half of them children, according to latest estimates.
Fighting has displaced more than six million people inside Syria, sometimes repeatedly, while another five million Syrians are living as refugees in neighbouring countries.
"The Syrian conflict has entered its tenth year, yet peace still remains far too elusive. The brutal conflict has exacted an unconscionable human cost and caused a humanitarian crisis of monumental proportions", said Mr. Guterres.
"Millions of civilians continue to face protection risks...We have seen nine years of horrific atrocities, including war crimes. Nine years of human rights abuses on a massive and systematic scale, eroding international norms to new depths of cruelty and suffering.
"Tens of thousands are missing, disappeared, detained, subjected to ill-treatment and torture. Untold numbers have been killed and injured. There must be no impunity for such horrific crimes", the UN chief said.
The “brutal simplicity” of these numbers belies the complexity of the crisis, according to UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Mark Lowcock.
“In the northwest, women and children are sleeping in the open and fleeing bombs. In the northeast, children have spent their entire lives in camps. Elsewhere across the country, people’s prospects and hope for the future are being gradually eroded in the face of economic crisis”, he said.
The situation in Idlib governorate, in northwest Syria, remains a pressing concern for the humanitarian community. A Government assault against opposition and terrorist groups, launched in December, has pushed nearly one million people out of their homes and into ever-shrinking safer areas near the border with Turkey.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that only half of the 550 health facilities in the region remain open nearly a decade after the war began.
Syria represents one of the worst cases of healthcare being affected by conflict, according to the agency, with a total of 494 attacks recorded between 2016-2019, mainly in the northwest.
“What is extremely troubling is that we‘ve come to a point where attacks on health – something the international community shouldn‘t tolerate - are now taken for granted; something we have become accustomed to. ”, said Richard Brennan, WHO Regional Emergency Director in the Eastern Mediterranean. “And they are still taking place”.
Situation Overview (OCHA)
The humanitarian situation remains alarming across northwest Syria where the impact of the conflict continues to have a devastating impact on the lives of an estimated four million people living in the Idleb area and northern Aleppo governorate.
With the announcement of a ceasefire on 6 March 2020, airstrikes in northwest Syria reportedly came to a halt and limited instances of shelling have been reported in concentrated areas along the frontlines.
Despite this, the vast humanitarian needs in the area will persist given the prolonged effects of violence and displacement that the area witnessed.
While the displacement from areas close to the frontlines in the Idleb area reportedly came to a stop with few additional movements being reported, the humanitarian needs of those who have been displaced since December 2019, as well as the pre-existing needs of the wider community remain acute.
Prior to the ceasefire, violence continued to take a heavy toll on the civilian population. For example, a few hours after the dawn on 5 March, a poultry farm hosting some 70 IDPs in Ma’arrat Tamsrin sub-district was reportedly hit by an airstrike, killing two children, five women and nine men, and injuring five children, five women and ten men.
Since 1 December, almost one million people, or one third of the total civilian population of the Idleb area, were forced to flee from their homes to escape from the violence. Some 550,000 people, more than half of the people who have been displaced since December, moved to northwestern areas in Idleb governorate into a small area already hosting hundreds of thousands of displaced people.
Over 410,000 of those who escaped from the violence moved to areas in northern Aleppo governorate such as A’zaz, Afrin, Jandairis and Al Bab sub-districts, where existing services are over-stretched. While local sources have reported that some families were returning to areas such as Atareb and Ariha, their humanitarian needs will continue to persist upon return as many services in these areas have been suspended or moved.
This latest wave of displacement compounds an already dire humanitarian situation in northwest Syria where the resilience of communities, families and individuals have eroded as a result of nine years of conflict, multiple displacements, as well as economic hardship. Prior to the latest escalation, 2.8 million people out of a total of 4 million people living in northwest Syria were estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance.
The humanitarian needs in the area are across all sectors, with the most acute emergency needs being shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene, food and protection.
For instance, the Food Security Cluster is reporting that there is a gap in providing food assistance to 438,000 people, particularly in A’zaz, Al Bab, Jandairis and Akhtrein sub-districts in northern Aleppo governorate and in Darkosh and Salqin sub-district in western Idleb governorate.
About 150,000 hectares of arable lands are reportedly no longer accessible for farmers due to the displacement, which will have a negative impact on the availability of locally grown food in the Idleb area.
Humanitarian workers on the ground are sounding the alarm on the particular impact of displacement, crowded living conditions. Four out of five people who have been displaced since 1 December are women, girls and boys, who face serious challenges that compromise their health, security and well-being.
Reports of women not being able to shower for several weeks due to lack of privacy and refusing to eat or drink in order not to go to the bathroom are extremely worrying.
The Protection Cluster reported that some pregnant women are reportedly delaying planned births due to the lack of access to medical facilities, endangering both the baby’s and mother’s health. The violence and displacement have also significantly affected breastfeeding and dietary practices for children and women and increased their exposure to infection. This is being manifested in increasing rates of stunting, a largely irreversible form of malnutrition.
Surveillance data collected by Nutrition Cluster partners among displaced children indicates that almost three in every ten children under the age of 5 years are stunted.
Stunting is the impaired child growth that results in poor cognition and educational performance but also increases the risk of morbidity and mortality.
Moreover, the recent escalation in violence and displacement had a devastating effect on education, particularly in the Idleb area. The Education Cluster estimates that almost 400,000 school-age children from 5 to 17 years old were displaced since 1 December, impacting their access to education.
Education activities were suspended for several months in Idleb governorate and the western Aleppo countryside, and hundreds of schools continue to be out of operation.
4 Feb. 2020
UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria: Parties to the conflict must act immediately and collectively to bring meaningful respite to civilians in northwest Syria.
The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic is alarmed by the surge of attacks in the northwest of the country that has heightened an already complex protection environment for civilians. The Commission appeals to all parties to exercise caution and restraint and to de-escalate hostilities immediately.
In the last two weeks, attacks on civilian infrastructure, including schools, markets, and medical facilities causing civilian casualties, including many girls and boys, have been reported. The deliberate and systematic targeting of hospitals follows a pattern already documented by the Commission, and may amount to war crimes. Continuing such attacks has been, and remains, completely unacceptable.
While the Commission’s investigations are continuing, this preliminary information raises concerns that all parties to the conflict continue to ignore the most fundamental principles of international humanitarian and human rights law in the course of their activities. Their legal obligations not to direct attacks against civilians and civilian targets remains.
Warring parties must act immediately and collectively to bring meaningful respite to the civilian population. The international community must use every tool at its disposal to prevent a further spiralling of the conflict in northwest Syria and to ensure that crimes and violations do not continue to go unpunished.
In the last three months alone similar patterns of attack forced more than 500,000 women, men and children, to be displaced further north toward the border. Some towns and villages in southern Idlib and western Aleppo governorates reportedly have been completely depopulated.
Many of the displaced have previously fled other parts of Syria including those forcibly displaced pursuant to “evacuation agreements”. Each new displacement brings with it additional risks and further increases existing vulnerabilities, in particular for women as well as children.
Parties must allow unfettered access for independent humanitarian, protection and human rights organizations to address the increasing needs and those organisations must act swiftly to increase protection.
The United Nations Secretary-General has made it clear that there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria.
The Commission reminds all parties that they have a moral imperative to engage in good faith dialogue to de-escalate the situation and prioritize the protection of civilians and respect for international humanitarian and human rights law.
* Hundreds of thousands in northwest Syria caught in humanitarian catastrophe, aid agencies warn:
29 Jan 2020
In a briefing today to the United Nations Security Council, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock expressed alarm about the deteriorating humanitarian situation affecting women and children, in particular in the north-west of the country, and called on all parties to stop the fighting and facilitate access for humanitarian workers and supplies to address civilians’ essential needs.
Underscoring that hostilities have escalated in recent days in the Idleb area, especially around Ma’arat al-Numan, Saraqeb and western Aleppo, the humanitarian chief noted that the most alarming reports have come from southern Idleb, where hundreds of airstrikes by the Government of Syria and its allies have been concentrated.
“The violence in north-west Syria is deplorable,” said Mr. Lowcock in his statement.
“Many families are moving multiple times. They arrive in a place thought to be safe, only for the bombs to follow, so they are then forced to move again. This cycle is all too familiar in north-west Syria.”
Most of the affected people have been moving from southern Idleb to other locations in non-government-controlled areas, the humanitarian chief said. According to the latest assessments, at least 20,000 people have moved in the past two days. Some 115,000 have left in the past week, and over 500,000 have fled in the past two months.
Mr. Lowcock said that efforts by humanitarian organizations within Syria to provide assistance cross-line, including those by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, have not yet been facilitated by the parties in control.
“The cross-border humanitarian operations have staved off a massive humanitarian catastrophe in the north-west, but let us make no mistake about it: civilians are still suffering terribly,” the humanitarian chief said.
Mr. Lowcock emphasized that under current conditions, humanitarian responders do not have the capacity to meet the level of need. He said that families that have been recently displaced and are currently in makeshift shelters and unfinished buildings have been making desperate appeals for more support.
Noting that he talked to Syrians in Idleb again last week, he stressed that people feel increasingly under siege, as well as traumatized and abandoned by the world.
“They don’t understand why this Council is unable to stop the carnage amongst a civilian population trapped in a war zone,” said Mr. Lowcock. “Their message to you is essentially the same one I relayed when I briefed you on 30 July: ‘We are afraid. Please help us. Make it stop.’”
The most urgent need is to protect the civilian population and to scale up the humanitarian response. “In order for that to be possible, I call on all parties to facilitate safe and unhindered access for humanitarian workers and supplies to address civilians’ essential needs,” he said.
“Parties to the conflict, and those with influence, must stop the fighting,” said Mr. Lowcock. “Unless the current hostilities stop, we will see an even greater humanitarian catastrophe. I hope you will take every step to avoid that.”
27 Dec. 2019
Once again families and children find themselves caught in deadly violence, by OCHA, Mercycorps, NRC, OHCHR, Unicef, agencies
The United Nations says 235,000 civilians have fled their homes in rebel-held northwestern Syria during a Syrian Government, Russian-backed campaign of airstrikes and shelling this month.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says the exodus took place between 12-25 December.
Most people had fled the city of Maarat al-Numan, towns and villages in southern Idlib province, Idlib city, and camps along the Syrian-Turkish border, OCHA said.
"With the latest escalation of violence in northwest Syria, civilians in Idlib governorate are again suffering from the devastating consequences of hostilities," it said.
Thousands of families were also reported to be too frightened to move, fearing further airstrikes and shelling.
David Swanson, UN regional spokesperson for the Syria crisis told reporters that women and children comprise more than 80 percent of displaced people.
"This comes on top of the displacement figures that we had from the end of April to the end of August where more than 400,000 people have been displaced. "What we have is a displacement crisis on top of another displacement crisis," Swanson said.
Rescue services and witnesses say the recent hostilities have left many towns in ruins and damaged or destroyed dozens of medical centres.
19 Dec. 2019
UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ursula Mueller Briefing to the Security Council on the humanitarian situation in Syria.
With the end of 2019 approaching, I am afraid that the humanitarian situation for people in many parts of Syria is worse than when the year began. The Secretary-General’s latest report updates about many concerning developments.
I would like to touch on a few of these developments today, but also highlight humanitarians’ ongoing efforts to assist people in need. I will speak to the continued importance of cross-border humanitarian operations.
In northwest Syria, to begin, the situation remains alarming. Syrian government forces and their allies continue to shell and conduct airstrikes on areas under the control of non-state armed groups, including listed terrorist entities, in Idleb and Aleppo. Non-state armed groups, for their part, have escalated attacks against areas controlled by Government forces in southern Idleb and Aleppo. Civilians on both sides of the frontline continue to suffer the consequences. Medical personnel and facilities have also been directly impacted.
Across northwest Syria, civilians live the consequences of this continued violence. Humanitarian networks report that hostilities have displaced up to 60,000 people in Idleb in recent weeks. Rain, cold and winter conditions have compounded hardship for many displaced families and their host communities. Earlier this month, OCHA received reports of families in Idleb burning tires, old clothes, and other household items trying to stay warm.
Humanitarian organizations are trying to do everything possible to assist the most vulnerable. Partners continue to provide food assistance to newly displaced households, increase health services in areas that are receiving an influx of IDPs, and provide emergency protection services. In recent months, WFP has increased the number of people to be assisted via its cross-border modalities to over 1 million people per month.
In northeast Syria, the humanitarian situation remains serious, even as hostilities have decreased in recent weeks. After Turkey and allied non-state armed groups launched ‘Operation Peace Spring’ in the area between Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn in Syria on 9 October, over 200,000 people fled the area. More than 70,000 people remain displaced from Hasakah, Raqqah and Aleppo governorates. Nearly 17,000 people have fled into Iraq.
Humanitarian organizations have mounted a significant response to assist hundreds of thousands of people affected by hostilities in the northeast. As the Secretary-General notes, humanitarian organizations in the area have been adaptive to deliver assistance to those most in need. With some 1.8 million people in need in northeast Syria, the task is considerable.
Rapid and unimpeded humanitarian access remains essential for all facets of the ongoing humanitarian response in the northeast.
As the Under-Secretary-General stressed in his briefing last month, the humanitarian situation in northwest and northeast Syria would be markedly worse without the cross-border operation. The aid provided through the modalities set out in your resolutions have staved off an even larger humanitarian crisis inside Syria.
Without the cross-border operation, we would see an immediate end of aid supporting millions of civilians. That would cause a rapid increase in hunger and disease, resulting in death, suffering and further displacement—including across-borders—for a vulnerable population who have already suffered unspeakable tragedy as a result of almost nine years of conflict.
The scale of humanitarian needs in Syria will remain vast. As you will have seen in the Global Humanitarian Overview 2020, which was released earlier this month, current estimates project that some 11 million people in Syria will need regular humanitarian assistance. Five million of these are in ‘acute’ need of assistance. The UN estimates that the overall financial requirements for the humanitarian response in 2020 will be similar to the $3.3 billion dollars requested in 2019.
Moreover, across the region, some 5.6 million Syrian refugees need assistance, more than 70 per cent of whom live in poverty. The current plan to assist this refugee population and their host communities remains considerable, with projected costs of $5.2 billion dollars.
Financial support for both the response in Syria and the wider region remains vital. Much more support is required to sustain humanitarian operations in Syria and neighboring countries. We will count on donors’ generosity during the year ahead to help humanitarians reach more people in need with the most appropriate and effective assistance.
June 2019
44 Syrian and International NGOs Call for Immediate End to Attacks on Civilians and Hospitals in Idlib, Syria
Three million civilians in northwest Syria are scared and many are homeless. With no concrete actions taken beyond political statements and promises, Syria and the world may soon be witnessing the “worst humanitarian tragedy of the 21st century”. Rescue and medical workers on the ground are warning that they have not seen such ferocious attacks in eight years in Idlib. If the conflict continues to escalate, as many as 700,000 people could be displaced from their homes in Syria’s last opposition stronghold.
According to the United Nations, over 200,000 people were forced to flee the continuous bombing and shelling of towns in southern Idlib and northern Hama and have few options to seek safety. Up to 80,000 of those who have fled are sleeping rough with no shelter, and many others are crammed into overcrowded homes.
Since the beginning of the escalation at the end of April, the United Nations has counted 23 attacks on 20 health facilities, some of them hit twice. 49 have had to suspend their operations due to attacks or insecurity.
Some of the health facilities that were attacked were on the de-conflicted list provided to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
“Attacks on community hospitals, including specialized maternity centers left thousands without medical care in Aleppo and East Ghouta,” said Dr. Ahmad Tarakji, SAMS President.
“Last year, our medical staff on the ground agreed to share hospital coordinates as part of the UN de-confliction mechanism: The United Nations has a responsibility to protect these hospitals and present a tangible plan to deter such attacks. The people of Syria have the right to know who is attacking and destroying their hospitals.”
Half of the three million people living in Idlib are internally displaced already and have experienced this violence time and again over the course of this conflict. The memory of Aleppo, East Ghouta, and Daraa, is still fresh in their minds, as they fear the latest offensive is only an indicator to the full-scale assault to come.
“Half of Syria’s population has already been displaced by eight years of war, yet the worst may still come,” said Arnaud Quemin, Mercy Corps’ Syria Country Director. “While entire communities were forced to flee and sought shelter in Idlib, three million people there, half of whom are internally displaced already, now fear they will have nowhere to go if war comes again to their doorsteps.”
There is no justification for ongoing attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure. Parties to the conflict have a legal obligation to protect civilians and spare them from the worst effects of the fighting and to avoid attacking schools, hospitals and homes. Clearly these rules are being violated in northwest Syria today.
In response to the recent alarming chapters of military escalation, we, the undersigned Syrian and international human rights, humanitarian and solidarity organizations, urge all parties to act quickly to ensure the protection of civilians in northwest Syria and compliance with international humanitarian law:
The United Nations Security Council members have a mandate to ensure the protection of civilians and maintain international peace and security. They cannot keep hiding behind divisions in the Council to allow the worst to happen in Idlib, and should exercise all the pressure they can on warring parties to end the hostilities, stop the systematic attacks on civilian infrastructure, and ensure that cross-border and cross-line humanitarian access is facilitated to allow aid agencies to reach all communities in need, in compliance with UNSC resolution 2393.
We also call on UNSC members to work with Turkey and Russia to honor their commitments to the so-called demilitarized zone agreement signed by both parties in September 2018 and implement an immediate ceasefire over the entirety of northwest Syria.
Members of the Security Council should support the Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Syria to engage parties and broker a peaceful resolution of the security situation in Idlib to avert further bloodshed and urge all parties to return to the table to negotiate a political settlement to the conflict.
* Children and armed conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic. Of Syria’s 6.2 Million displaced people, 2.6 million are children, roughly 42 percent:

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