Syria

Humanitarian catastrophe in Idlib as thousands of children displaced in sub-zero temperatures

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Harsh weather conditions in a displacement camp in Eastern Aleppo © Save the Children

The conditions for children and families forced to flee their homes in Idlib, Syria are deteriorating at an alarming speed in severe winter weather, Save the Children is warning. The ongoing escalation in conflict in Idlib has seen:

  • At least 290,000 children displaced from their homes by violence.
  • It has been widely reported thatschools in Idlib city and the countryside have been closed until further notice, impacting 160,000 students in 278 schools.
  • Camps in Idlib overwhelmed by new arrivals, with flooding and windstorms further compounding the vulnerability of newly-displaced families.

A staff member at Save the Children's partner in Idlib, Hurras Network, said:

"The displacement is terrifying. It is the first time we see a wave this big since the beginning of the conflict. During displacement, the people are just leaving without securing places to stay, they don't know where they're going. Sometimes they end up living with relatives in camps or in tents that they buy.

"It is very cold now and the cold is affecting children. Some are dying because of the cold. We've recorded cases of children dying as a result of the cold, which were also shared through social media.

"These children are living in fear, and are being deprived of everything, especially food. These children are also leaving their schools and losing their rights to education. So this is the situation for children in these circumstances, it's very exhausting."

Sonia Khush, Save the Children Syria Response Director, said:

"The humanitarian catastrophe we've been warning of for years in Idlib is happening now. Nearly a quarter of Idlib's population have been forced to flee their homes in just a few weeks -- 80% are women and children -- in sub-zero temperatures. What is next? During previous winters, children and babies have died when the thermometer has plummeted.

"Our partners on the ground are telling us that they've never seen anything like the speed and scale of the current displacement in Idlib before, with convoys of vehicles stretching as far as the eye can see.

"We call on all parties to the conflict to heed calls for an immediate ceasefire. The lives of thousands of women and children are at stake -- this is urgent and crucial."

Save the Children is calling on all parties to stop this war on children and to respect international human rights laws and international humanitarian laws which are designed to protect children in times of conflict.

ENDS

Spokespeople are available. To arrange an interview please contact Joelle Bassoul in Beirut 0096 1816 00696 or Davina Hagan in London 0044 7732 601762. During out of office hours, please contact the 24-hour press office in London 0044 7831 650 409.

Notes to editors:

  • According to the UN, since December, nearly 700,000 people have been forcibly displaced in Idlib and surrounding areas in the north-west of Syria, out of a population of 3 million. This is the largest number of people displaced in a single period since the Syrian crisis began almost nine years ago. From 1st December 2019 to 2nd February 2020, some 586,000 people fled from their homes in northwest Syria as a result of ongoing hostilities.
  • It has been widely reported that schools in Idlib and the countryside have been closed until further notice and that is impacting 160,000 students in 278 schools.