Humanitarian Update Syrian Arab Republic - Issue 01 | 19 February 2019 [EN/AR]
People in need of humanitarian assistance 13M
People in acute need of humanitarian assistance 5.2M
Internally displaced people (as of August) 6.2M
Returnees (January – December 2018) 1.4 M
People in need in UN-declared hardto-reach areas 1.1M
HRP 2018 FUNDING
3.36 billion requested (US$)
Key Developments in northwestern Syria
A recent expansion of areas under control by Hay Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in northwest Syria has resulted in a potentially more challenging working environment for humanitarians on the ground. This said, humanitarian agencies, though closely monitoring the situation, continues humanitarian deliveries unabated.
While the full implications of HTS’s control remains unclear, the UN and partners are closely following developments to ensure under the humanitarian imperative that independent, impartial and principled humanitarian action continues exercising due diligence in doing so.
The latest development comes at the heels of temporary suspension of funding by key donors for so-called stabilisation assistance at the end of 2018 in an area where over 400,000 Syrians in need are being assisted each month. Stabilisation assistance, though political in nature, supports critical elements of governance and infrastructure and may impact indirectly on humanitarian deliveries.
An estimated 2.7 million men, women and children are currently in need of some form of humanitarian assistance in northwestern Syria. This includes 1.7 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), many of whom have been displaced multiple times and have been living in camps for years; resulting in increased levels of vulnerability. Some 40 per cent of children are out of school, while 2 million residents rely on water trucking for most if not all their clean water.
While a September agreement between Turkey and Russia to establish a demilitarized zone in the area, including around Idleb, resulted in a significant decrease in fighting and airstrikes in recent months, and staved off further military action in the area, January witnessed an increase in fighting among non-state armed groups, placing civilians at further risk and resulting in injury and death.
Despite a difficult operating environment, both the United Nations and non-governmental organizations continue to deliver life-saving or sustaining assistance in the area. Each month, 2.24 million Syrians are reached with critical assistance through cross-border operations out of Turkey; providing food, medicine, tent, critical winter supplies, and other forms of life-saving assistance to those who would otherwise not be accessible.
Compounding matters now has been the recent suspension of stabilization funding by some donors following HTS’s consolidation of power in the area and its impact on critical health services, including ambulances, referrals, dialysis centres, blood banks, vaccination and drug control. Some donors were concerned whether or not the health directorates in the area would remain independent of HTS and the so-called Salvation Government.
Humanitarian partners are currently looking at whether some critical activities affected by the suspension, including ambulances and referrals, could be supported by humanitarian actors. At the time of press, however, it remains unclear whether this would adequately address all gaps or whether further support was needed in ensuring critical health services to vulnerable populations could continue.
Meanwhile, the importance of engaging with all actors on the protection of civilians, humanitarian access, protection of aid workers, and the non-diversion of assistance in ensuring assistance continues to reach those in need cannot be overemphasized. To ensure the humanitarian imperative, the UN and humanitarian partners have implemented a number of measures to strengthen risk mitigation and enhance due diligence and accountability systems, including, but not limited to, screening and vetting of implementing partners; reducing risk of interference in all aspects of humanitarian action; monitoring of distributions; commodity tracking systems; ongoing monitoring of programming; feedback from affected communities; training initiatives; and engagement with all parties to the conflict, to address operational challenges as they arise.