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International neglect of Central African Republic will lead to new catastrophe
by MSF, Norwegian Refugee Council, agencies
 
29 Nov. 2018
 
Two in three children in the Central African Republic need humanitarian assistance. A neglected, dangerous and deteriorating crisis for children reports Unicef.
 
Five years after Bangui descended into bloodshed, life in the Central African Republic is even harsher and more dangerous for children. Despite the escalating crisis, international funding and attention are critically low.
 
A new UNICEF report, “Crisis in the Central African Republic: In a neglected emergency, children need aid, protection – and a future” finds that: 1.5 million children now require humanitarian assistance, an increase of 300,000 since 2016. Over 43,000 children below five years old are projected to face an extremely elevated risk of death due to severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in 2019.
 
One in four children is either displaced or a refugee. Thousands of children are trapped within armed groups; thousands more are subject to sexual violence. Practically every child needs protection from the armed groups who now control four-fifths of the country.
 
The number of attacks against aid-workers more than quadrupled – from 67 incidents in all of 2017 to 294 in just the first eight and one-half months of 2018.
 
“This crisis is taking place in one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world, and one of the most dangerous for humanitarian workers,” said Christine Muhigana, UNICEF’s Representative in the Central African Republic. “Conditions for children are desperate.”
 
The crisis in CAR is driven largely by fighting between a dozen or so armed groups over cattle routes and lands rich in diamonds, gold and uranium. More often than not, the armed groups target civilians rather than each other. They attack health and education facilities and personnel, mosques and churches, as well as sites where displaced people have taken shelter.
 
Terrified families are being driven from their homes. As of late September, almost 643,000 people – at least half of whom are children – were displaced across CAR, and over 573,000 had sought refuge in neighboring countries. Coupled with extremely limited access to health care, safe water and sanitation, the forced displacement translates into a malnutrition crisis for children. SAM rates were above emergency thresholds in 16 out of 18 displacement sites surveyed over the past two years; for children forced into the bush, conditions are even more dire.
 
The crisis is unfolding within an acute development emergency. CAR has the world’s second-highest newborn death rate and maternal mortality ratio, fewer than three out of five children make it through primary school, and almost half the population has no access to clean water. The country ranks 188 out of 189 countries on the UN’s Human Development Index, a composite indicator measuring life expectancy, income and education.
 
Despite the major upsurge in fighting and displacement, only 44 per cent of UNICEF’s US$56.5 million funding appeal for 2018 had been met as of the end of October. “The children of the Central African Republic have been abandoned for too long,” Muhigana said. “They need attention and help now, and they will need it for the long run.”
 
http://www.unicef.org/press-releases/two-three-children-central-african-republic-need-humanitarian-assistance
 
14 November 2018
 
The humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic continues to deteriorate as a consequence of increased insecurity and renewed attacks of armed groups.
 
Populations have been displaced repeatedly and as a consequence 63% of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance now, compared to 48% last year. 1.6 million people are in imminent danger.
 
650,000 people are currently internally displaced while 1.2 million have become refugees in neighbouring countries out of a total population of 4.6 million.
 
Ms. Najat Rochdi, the Humanitarian Coordinator of the United Nations in the Central African Republic this week told reporters that so many people were internally displaced or had fled the country that agricultural production had decreased considerably. She warned that the country could be threatened with famine within a few years.
 
Nov. 2018
 
International neglect of Central African Republic will lead to new catastrophe. (NRC)
 
“The international response in the Central African Republic is a recipe for failure. The humanitarian and political neglect will throw the country back into renewed cycles of violence,” warned Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland, who is visiting the country.
 
Since 2017, violence has escalated in several areas, the number of attacks against civilians and aid workers is on the rise, and one out of four Central Africans now live in displacement.
 
“I was heartbroken to hear the story of a 16-year old mother with her 8-month old baby living alone in the camp of Lazare. Her parents were killed by the armed groups and the father of her baby dumped her with nothing,” recounts Egeland after his visit at a camp for displaced persons in Kaga Bandoro. “There are thousands of single mothers and orphaned children with similar stories here. They are surrounded by armed men and left in hopelessness. We cannot continue to betray them with our silence and inaction.”
 
Next week, the UN Security Council will meet to renew the mandate of the peacekeeping force, MINUSCA, which is set to expire on 15th November.
 
“The peacekeeping force is overstretched and under-resourced. It is unable to protect civilians from atrocities. The UN should not just renew the force’s mandate, but must also follow up on the commitment from last year to give it the necessary mandate and resources to prevent conflict and protect civilians from attacks,” said Egeland.
 
To address the massive humanitarian needs, Egeland is also appealing for a significant increase in the humanitarian support. So far this year, humanitarian organisations have received less than half of the 500 million dollars needed for relief work.
 
“The situation in the Central African Republic is a grotesque example of the impossibility of building peace and stability on empty stomachs,” said Egeland.
 
“Unless access to vulnerable populations and humanitarian assistance is ramped up, all other investments will be money down the drain. Civilians on the ground will be the ones paying the highest price,” he said.
 
One key problem is that hotspot areas which receive some attention and funding become neglected when the emergency fades, leaving people without necessary support and opportunities to feed themselves or their families. This sometimes allows underlying causes of the conflict to resurface, throwing the area back into full-blown crisis.
 
“We have to break this vicious cycle in which the Central African Republic is repeatedly engulfed by violence and neglect,” said Egeland.
 
“It is outrageous how we can allow large parts of this country to slide back into a full-blown conflict”, he added.
 
The Central African Republic is now the world’s third worst humanitarian crisis behind Yemen and Syria, measured by the percentage of population in need of lifesaving relief.
 
http://www.nrc.no/news/2018/november/international-neglect-of-central-african-republic-will-lead-to-new-catastrophe/
 
7 Nov 2018
 
Oxfam calls on parties to conflict in Central African Republic to stop targeting civilians and to allow unhindered humanitarian access
 
All sides in Central African Republic should stop targeting civilians and allow vital aid to get to those in need, said Oxfam today, following the recent attack on a camp for internally displaced people in the town of Batangafo in the north of the country. Violent clashes between armed groups have been taking place since Wednesday 31 October in Batangafo following an attack on a man while visiting a camp for internally displaced people (IDPs).
 
An estimated 28,000 people are affected by the surge in violence. More than 10,000 people have fled their homes to the compound of the MSF-supported hospital, while several thousand others have fled to the bush. The IDP site and many surrounding houses and buildings have been burned. At least 20 people have been treated for injuries at the city hospital.
 
Ferran Puig, Oxfam’s Country Director in Central African Republic, said: "The protection of civilians must be the top priority for all parties. For more than four years, they have suffered the consequences of ongoing conflict and are at breaking point. I appeal to all those involved in the conflict to allow humanitarian organizations to deliver the assistance that these people need."
 
Oxfam’s team in Batangafo has been forced to limit its movements as a result of the violence which is hampering their work. However, since Tuesday the team has been able to provide essential services such water in collaboration with Danish Refugee Council. Oxfam estimates that the crisis has prevented it from providing more than 32,000 people with humanitarian assistance.
 
http://reliefweb.int/report/central-african-republic/oxfam-urges-parties-conflict-central-african-republic-stop-targeting http://bit.ly/2Db748k http://www.msf.org/central-african-republic-more-10000-seek-refuge-batangafo-hospital
 
Oct. 2018
 
The world’s hungriest country. (Concern Worldwide)
 
This year, there was one country with hunger levels classified as “extremely alarming”: Central African Republic (CAR).
 
CAR is located in the very centre of the African continent, in a fragile and conflict-prone region. It has a beautiful and varied landscape and a diverse - though relatively small - population of just under five million. However, CAR has suffered from decades of misrule, coups and periods of violent conflict. The most recent conflict began at the end of 2012 and, at its height, forced millions to flee their homes. It also caused a surge in hunger levels. But exactly how does conflict exacerbate hunger levels – on a local and global scale?
 
Already a poor and vulnerable country, the recurrence of conflict since 2013 has driven over a million people, a fifth of the entire population, from their homes. More than 2.5 million people - over half the population - are in need of humanitarian assistance.
 
At the height of the conflict, fields in many areas were trampled or burned, and for a largely rural population, where growing your own food is integral to obtaining enough nutritious food for a balanced diet, this is a huge problem. Food reserves, seed stores and livestock were also looted, and much of the infrastructure was destroyed.
 
The devastating impact on food security is long-lasting, in part because hunger and conflict is a self-defeating circle. Conflict increases food insecurity and food and nutrition insecurity increase the likelihood of unrest, violence and conflict.
 
While conflict is by no means the sole perpetrator of global hunger, it is the main driver. Indeed the bottom three countries of this year’s GHI (CAR, Chad and Yemen) are all in the midst of conflict, and in fact 60% of the world’s hungry people live in conflict zones.
 
This self-defeating circle may seem interminable, but the hunger cycle can be broken. According to our experts Caitriona Dowd, Humanitarian Policy Officer, and Anushree Rao, Senior Policy Officer in Nutrition, first and foremost, more investment in peacebuilding is absolutely necessary.
 
Support is needed for policies designed to prevent conflict, as our efforts on malnutrition and resilience cannot progress until we invest in peacebuilding, particularly given the number of countries that have been marred by prolonged conflict.
 
Furthermore, since most conflict-engendered forced migration is protracted, since the average duration of displacement for a refugee is currently 26 years, long-term solutions for refugees and internally displaced people, such as income-generation opportunities, education, and training, are vital. And this is just the start.
 
In the meantime, while we may not be able to fix the issue of conflict, Concern is working to improve the lives of those affected by it. We do this by building the resilience of communities and delivering programmes addressing issues around food security and livelihoods; health and nutrition; water, sanitation and hygiene; gender; and disaster risk reduction.
 
Concern deals with the human toll of conflict on a daily basis. We are now in our fiftieth year of tackling crisis in the world’s most conflict-affected contexts, and will continue to help alleviate suffering and work with communities to address the root causes of hunger, including conflict.
 
http://blog.concern.net/without-peace-there-is-no-hope-the-displaced-voices-of-war http://www.concern.net/where-we-work/africa/central-african-republic
 
May 2018 (MSF)
 
For over 18 months, Central African Republic (CAR) has yet again been subjected to extreme violence inflicted on a population left traumatised by the civil war in 2013 and 2014. Until recently, the capital city Bangui appeared to have been spared the attacks and fighting that have erupted in the provinces.
 
This is no longer the case. In just a few weeks, over 150 casualties have been treated in SICA hospital managed by Médecins Sans Frontières in Bangui. The teams have had to activate two mass casualty plans to respond to the emergency caused by a succession of particularly violent days in the capital.
 
On Sunday 8 April, national and international security forces mounted a joint operation against local armed groups in the city’s economic hub and mainly Muslim PK5 district. The operation led to clashes that left dozens of wounded among the armed forces as well as the population.
 
Two days later, the fighting flared up again and casualties arrived in huge numbers at the city’s medical facilities. Over the course of two days, the teams in SICA hospital treated 64 patients, principally for bullet wounds.
 
Violence erupted yet again on Tuesday, 1 May, with clashes and attacks targeting Fatima district, especially the church, as well as PK5 and the surrounding neighbourhoods. Armed groups, but also people who live in these neighbourhoods, clashed and heavy artillery resounded throughout the town.
 
This resurgence of violence, unprecedented since 2015, has rekindled divisions between Christian and Muslim communities and triggered a wave of reprisals across the city. It’s challenging for people, and therefore medical teams and ambulances, to move around, homes and places of worship have been torched and vandalised, and families have been forced to leave their homes. Over 70 casualties were treated in SICA hospital in just a few hours on 1 May, prompting MSF’s teams to activate the mass casualty plan for a second time.
 
The mass casualty plan is activated to respond to a mass influx of casualties during emergency situations. A triage zone is set up at the hospital entrance where medical personnel determine the severity of patients’ injuries and assign them a colour. “Green” patients are the least severely wounded. Once they’re examined, some are fitted with plaster casts and others have their wounds dressed or are referred for X-rays and told to come back for further treatment in a few days. “Yellow” patients require more complex care in the emergency room and “red” patients are often taken straight to the operating theatre. “Black” patients are in such critical condition that they are either deceased on arrival, die very soon after, or have very little chance of survival.
 
For the logistics teams, the challenge is to set up as soon as the plan is activated a system to admit and initiate care of wounded patients, while ensuring a minimum level of security.
 
“Our priority was organising a triage zone, positioning beds and stretchers and setting up an area in front of the hospital where the wounded could come in and out and the porters and medical staff could work without being hampered by the crowds of people,” explains Pierre, a logistician at SICA hospital. “The guards are really important. They talk to people, try and calm things down and explain what MSF does.”
 
On 1 May, the crowd set upon an ambulance they thought was transporting wounded Muslims to SICA hospital. It did eventually manage to get through. The casualties — men and women but also children — arrived in waves.
 
“The patients we treated on the days we activated the mass casualty plan had war wounds,” adds orthopaedic surgeon André Valembrun. “These cause significant damage to bones and tissue that often require long and complicated treatment.”
 
Pascale is a nurse. She’d gone to Bangui for an entirely different purpose: assisting with the long-term introduction of osteosynthesis in surgical care at SICA hospital. The emergency rapidly took priority over her work schedule as, during mass casualty plans, all available medical personnel are called in to help. Pascale looked after patients in the “green” zone. While undoubtedly less serious, “green” doesn’t mean patients’ injuries are trivial and Pascale saw people with fractures, open wounds or grenade shrapnel in their faces.
 
“One of the patients who affected me most was a woman who had no idea where she was. I later found out her child had been shot and taken to another of the city’s medical facilities,” Pascale said. “She jumped on a motorbike taxi to go to him but in the general panic, with crowds of people trying to flee the fighting, she had an accident. She was injured and brought to SICA hospital. She was completely out of it so I stayed with her until she gradually came round. Lots of the patients were in a state of shock. They hadn’t expected such a level of violence.”
 
After the shockwave, an uneasy calm has returned to Bangui. Like some of his Central African colleagues, Pierre wants to believe the worst-case scenario is still preventable.
 
“There’s an atmosphere stoking preparations for violence. There’s a lot of uncertainty and rumours are rife,” said Pierre “The accumulation of tensions could unleash a huge wave of violence. But people here are all too familiar with mindless violence and, although the fear is really palpable, there’s also a sense that the worst isn’t inevitable.”
 
http://www.msf.org/en/article/central-african-republic-days-violence-and-mass-casualties-bangui http://reliefweb.int/report/central-african-republic/human-rights-council-holds-interactive-dialogue-human-rights http://bit.ly/2mPKnwn http://bit.ly/2xbf8nY http://www.unicef.org/appeals/car.html http://www1.wfp.org/countries/central-african-republic http://www.icrc.org/en/where-we-work/africa/central-african-republic http://www.unhcr.org/en-au/central-african-republic-situation.html http://www.nrc.no/news/2018/may/five-things-to-know-about-the-central-african-republic/ http://reliefweb.int/country/caf http://www.unocha.org/car http://bit.ly/2IVEBaK http://www.acaps.org/country/car/crisis-analysis


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Syria: Why we fear bloodshed in Idlib
by ICRC, Norwegian Refugee Council, agencies
Syria
 
Nov. 2018 (UN News)
 
A fragile ceasefire between Government forces and opposition fighters has held in Idlib for 10 weeks, guaranteed by Russia, Turkey and Iran, who re-committed to the deal at talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, this week said Jan Egeland, co-chair of the International Syria Support Group''s Humanitarian Access Task Force and Senior Advisor of the UN Special Envoy for Syria.
 
Mr. Egeland, who welcomed the original deal, warned at the time that the alternative – clashes between opposition and Government forces – would cause massive bloodshed and destruction similar to that inflicted on other major cities, including Homs, Aleppo, and Raqqa.
 
In his last press encounter as co-chair of the humanitarian task force before stepping down, Mr. Egeland offered insight into the difficulties of achieving the mechanism’s two main aims since it was established in early 2016: securing aid access and protecting civilians.
 
Among its challenges were the fact that towns and villages had been besieged, hundreds of thousands of people had died and 12 million had been driven from their homes during the more than seven-year war, he noted.
 
Turning to the 23 countries that attended task force meetings in Geneva, Mr. Egeland insisted that “too few acted courageously” to hold back the warring parties’ worst excesses against civilians.
 
“All hell was let loose on them and no one was willing and able to shield and protect them,” he said, adding nonetheless that “what happened here in Geneva helped cause some of the few really achievements, also in the protection of civilians”.
 
The task force’s successes included securing aid deliveries to the majority of people in besieged areas in 2016, Mr. Egeland said, compared with only two per cent a year earlier, and organizing the first high-altitude air-drops of aid to besieged people in Deir Ez-Zor in eastern Syria.
 
In a joint statement released on Thursday from Astana – where regular meetings have been held since January 2017 – Iran, Russia and Turkey reiterated their support for the UN-backed launch of a Constitutional Committee for Syria in Geneva “that would enjoy support of the Syrian parties…at the soonest possible time”.
 
Staffan de Mistura, UN Special Envoy for Syria, who has been leading efforts to form a Constitutional Committee, noted on Thursday that the Astana meeting had achieved “no tangible progress” in resolving a 10-month stalemate on its composition, as had been outlined in Sochi in January this year.
 
http://bit.ly/2Eca8SS http://bit.ly/2QwuPyu
 
12 Oct. 2018
 
Aid groups fear for civilians in Idlib as ceasefire deal deadline looms - Report from CARE, Mercy Corps, International Rescue Committee, Save the Children
 
Four international aid agencies working in Syria’s north-west region of Idlib have warned of dire consequences for millions of civilians if the Russia-Turkey deal, due to be implemented by October 15, doesn’t result in a sustained reduction of violence in this overcrowded province.
 
Local organizations that partner with CARE International, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Mercy Corps and Save the Children, as well as civilians receiving aid have expressed fears that violence could spiral out of control in the next few days if either the deal collapses or fighting escalates in areas not covered by it. Almost 3 million people live in Idlib, and it is estimated that even a limited military offensive would displace hundreds of thousands of people.
 
“Idlib residents, and aid workers hold their breath as the deadline for a political deal looms. While the terms of the agreement are known, we don’t know what the plan is if parties on the ground fail to implement it. Will it be all out war? Over and over again, similar deals have simply ended in a bloodbath. Civilians caught in this stand-off must be spared at all costs,” said Wouter Schaap, Syria country director for CARE International.
 
“The people of Idlib need a deal that offers long-term protection to civilians and allows aid to reach all those in need. Aid efforts are already stretched to the maximum in Idlib, where the population has doubled in recent years as people relocated there from areas retaken by the government of Syria. Aid organizations are at full capacity responding to the current needs of both displaced people and local communities. Though we are prepared to respond to any emergency, if this deal falls short and military operations start, many hundreds of thousands will struggle to get the help they will so badly need,” said Lorraine Bramwell, IRC Syria Country Director.
 
In September, Russia and Turkey agreed to create a demilitarized area in Idlib, which armed groups must leave by a provisional deadline of October 15. Provided it is implemented in line with International Humanitarian Law and does not result in an increase in violence in areas outside the demilitarized zone, the agreement could offer a potential lifeline to the people of Idlib. Civilians have already lived through years of war, during which many families have been forced to flee their homes multiple times.
 
Now, reports that different parties to the conflict are refusing to engage with the terms of the deal and commit to it long-term threaten to undermine the hope of a reduction in violence in Idlib.
 
“We already see the impact of this nerve-wracking situation on children, who tell us they are terrified at the prospect of more violence. The school year has barely started, but the facilities we support are making contingency plans to suspend classes and training young children on how to evacuate in the event of an attack. Many children in Idlib have been forced to flee their homes up to a dozen times, forcing them to miss years of school and causing stress and upset. Renewed conflict would compound the suffering of more than a million children in Idlib,” said Sonia Khush, Syria Response Director at Save the Children.
 
“Some people we help have stocked up on food, expecting to be stuck at home for days on end if fighting resumes. Others have packed their bags and are ready to move at the first airstrike. In both cases, our aid workers might not be able to reach those people if the security situation doesn’t allow them to move. And everyone fears losing their life if bombs start raining from the sky. What we need is a deal that not only holds but is also extended to other parts of Idlib and guarantees full humanitarian access to people in need,” said Arnaud Quemin, Syria Country Director for Mercy Corps.
 
http://bit.ly/2yCvRy6 http://bit.ly/2Olxs6g
 
Sep. 2018
 
Syria: Why we fear bloodshed in Idlib
 
An escalation of violence in Idlib province could quickly become a humanitarian catastrophe, warns the Norwegian Refugee Council.
 
Idlib hosts the highest concentration of displaced people in Syria. Violence in and around Idlib over the last year has forced people to flee time and again. Half of Idlib’s population of three million has been displaced from other parts of Syria. Civilian lives would be at stake if hostilities intensify.
 
Idlib is the last remaining so-called “de-escalation” zone in Syria. The makeup of Idlib is similar to places like Eastern Ghouta, southern Syria and Raqqa. It has a diverse mix of armed groups – some designated terrorists – and a high number of civilians in the same areas. Efforts must be taken to avoid targeting civilians, their homes, hospitals and schools.
 
Tens of thousands of civilians depend entirely on aid. Their greatest lifeline is assistance from humanitarian organisations. Many families lack access to clean water and sanitation facilities. Children who have been out of school for years have forgotten how to read. A battle over Idlib’s future risks cutting off lifesaving aid to countless people in need.
 
A staggering 700,000 people could be displaced overnight. Already people are on the move again out of fear of what might come next, and are struggling to find shelter. As NRC witnessed in Eastern Ghouta or Aleppo, routes to safety came too little too late for thousands of civilians trapped in the violence.
 
The only way to truly ensure the safety of civilians in Idlib is to prevent an outbreak in violence altogether. We must see the world’s top powers commit to peaceful negotiations and agreements which protect civilians and grant them safety.
 
As we look ahead, the humanitarian community must nevertheless prepare for the worst-case scenario. We must draw on what we have learned from previous emergencies in Syria and do our best to help people as they flee. http://bit.ly/2CkQ8xj
 
04 Sep 2018
 
Syria: Hostilities in Idlib should not produce massive civilian suffering - International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
 
Statement from Fabrizzio Carboni, regional director for the Near and Middle East at the International Committee of the Red Cross.
 
As fears of renewed violence mount in Syria''s Idlib, I am concerned that a further increase in hostilities is bound to turn desperation into misery for large numbers of civilians. Syria has experienced more than seven years of agony, and we fear that renewed fighting in Idlib could produce suffering to rival the human misery seen in Aleppo, Eastern Ghouta and Raqqa. Living conditions for displaced people and host families are already extremely difficult, particularly in makeshift camps, where access to the most basic necessities is insufficient.
 
Intensified fighting in the vast Idlib area will put tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people on the move. Civilians who flee, just like civilians who stay, are protected from attack. Those who leave must be allowed access to health care, food, water and sanitation.
 
The ICRC calls on all parties to the conflict to protect the wounded and sick, health personnel, humanitarian workers and infrastructure essential for people''''s survival -- medical facilities, schools, water facilities, bakeries and agricultural lands -- at all times and in accordance with international humanitarian law. No distinction should ever be made among wounded and sick on any grounds other than medical ones.
 
Humanitarian agencies must be able to work. They must be able to reach the affected areas to provide lifesaving aid. Humanitarian aid should be allowed regularly and unconditionally to all those in need.
 
http://www.icrc.org/en/document/syria-hostilities-idlib-should-not-produce-massive-civilian-suffering
 
Sep. 2018 (UN News)
 
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has expressed deep concern over the growing risk of a humanitarian catastrophe should a full-scale military operation take place in Syria’s war-battered Idlib province.
 
Mr. Guterres urgently appealed to the Government of Syria and all parties to exercise restraint and to prioritize the protection of civilians in the event of any escalation of the conflict.
 
The Secretary-General further called on all parties “to take all necessary measures to safeguard civilian lives, allow freedom of movement, and protect civilian infrastructure, including medical and educational facilities, in accordance with international humanitarian law and human rights law.”
 
The statement came one day after John Ging, Director of Operations with the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told the UN Security Council that intense aerial bombardment and shelling in Idlib and three other governorates in north-west Syria have left death, damage and destruction in their wake, and placed an even greater strain on aid workers and communities hosting displaced people.
 
Aug. 2018
 
Statement by Panos Moumtzis, Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, on Civilian Casualties in Northwest Syria. (OCHA)
 
I am appalled over the reported deaths of at least 116 civilians, many of them women and children, in Idleb and Aleppo governorates over the weekend due to ongoing violence and hostilities.
 
This extreme violence is completely unacceptable. I remain deeply concerned for the safety and protection of the millions of civilians living in this area, many of them displaced multiple times, and am alarmed such incidents are part of a further escalation of the conflict in the area.
 
A military operation in Idleb and surrounding areas similar to what was seen in other parts of Syria will not only endanger many of the more than 3 million civilians in this densely populated area, but will likely severely impact humanitarian partners’ ability to deliver life-saving assistance.
 
On Friday alone, heavy airstrikes on Big Orem town in western rural Aleppo Governorate reportedly killed at least 37 people, over half of whom were children, and injured dozens more.
 
Separately, at least nine people were reportedly killed and at least 40 people were injured, including women and children, after shelling on the town of Khan Shaykun in southern rural Idleb, while two people reportedly lost their lives after barrel bombs were dropped on the village of Tah and one person was killed in shelling on the village of Tahtay in southern rural Idleb.
 
On Sunday, at least 67 civilians lost their lives, 17 of them children, when a weapons and ammunition depot in a residential building near Sarmada town in northern rural Idleb Governorate exploded, injuring dozens more. Seventeen people were rescued from under the debris.
 
The UN condemns these horrific attacks directed against civilians and civilian infrastructure, including hospitals and schools. UN-sponsored peace talks should prioritize gaining the commitment of all parties to stop attacks on such infrastructure which are essential to the civilian population.
 
It is imperative all parties to the conflict and those with influence over them to come to a genuine and inclusive agreement to settle the conflict in Syria in a peaceful manner, to prevent the further suffering of the Syrian people. Civilians should not and must not be a target.
 
The humanitarian community reminds all parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law to protect civilians and to spare no effort to prevent civilian casualties. http://bit.ly/2OF7ZAa
 
Aug. 2018
 
Syria: UN warns of ''bloodbath'' in Idlib. (BBC World Service)
 
The UN has warned that the destruction of Aleppo could be repeated in Idlib - the last part of Syria still held by rebel groups. Syrian government troops are reportedly preparing for a ground assault that could displace hundreds of thousands of people, many of them refugees and civilians from other nearby battles. Jan Egeland is the chair of the UN task force on humanitarian access in Syria - he tells us what the UN fears: http://bbc.in/2Bgqucu
 
http://www.unicef.org/emergencies/syria/ http://www.unocha.org/syria http://www.humanitarianresponse.info/en/operations/whole-of-syria http://reliefweb.int/country/syr http://news.un.org/en/tags/syria
 
* 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: http://undocs.org/s/2018/969


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