In December 2019, Idleb and western Aleppo governorates saw a sharp escalation in hostilities, shelling, and airstrikes, preventing access to essential services and endangering the safety of those living in areas close to conflict lines, particularly in communities in southeastern Idleb and western Aleppo. This drastic rise in hostilities led to mass displacement of civilians across the region with nearly 1 million displaced since 1 December, according to reports. Communities situated along the Syrian-Turkish border and communities in parts of northern Aleppo in partricular have witnessed high numbers of Internally Displaced Person (IDP) arrivals, putting increased pressure on already strained infrastructure and services. Many IDPs are have been displaced multiple times, which in turn erodes resilience and intensifies existing vulnerabilities. Harsh winter conditions, the volatility of the Syrian pound and as of March, the potential for a novel COVID-19 outbreak have also compounded humanitarian needs.
Despite the implementation of a ceasefire on 6 March, the situation in northwest Syria remains highly volatile. Moreover, the need for humanitarian assistance that can meet the existing needs of IDP and host community populations whilst comprising the required preparedness and response required for COVID-19 represents a unique and grave challenge.
In response to the complex humanitarian context across northwest Syria, REACH conducted a Rapid Needs Assessment (RNA) to support operational actors in planning the humanitarian response. This factsheet outlines the multi-sectoral needs of IDP and host community populations of 461 assessed communities across Idleb and northern Aleppo governorates. The full dataset to accompany this factsheet can be found here. In addition to this factsheet, a factsheet focusing on COVID-19 preparedness will be disseminated in the coming days.
To provide timely updates on the humanitarian situation, REACH conducted this RNA in 461 communities (including 4 neighbourhoods in Idleb city) across 26 sub-districts in northwest Syria via remote community-level Key Informant (KI) interviews. REACH covered all 273 opposition-held and accessible communities in Idleb governorate. REACH conducted this assessment in 188 communities of Aleppo governorate which witnessed more than 100 IDP arrivals since 1 December 2019. Data was collected between 26 and 29 March 2020.This assessment follows a series of multi-sectoral RNAs following episodes of escalated conflict in February 2019, May 2019 and July 2019.
The high number of IDP arrivals to assessed communities in northwest Syria within recent months has posed several challenges to available services and livelihood opportunities within the region. Across all assessed communities, 58% of the total population were IDPs, according to KIs. KIs reported that shelter was the most critical priority need for IDP populations, as reported in 242 communities (52%), whilst the most critical priority need for host community populations was livelihoods, as reported in 357 communities (77%). According to KIs, 42% of the IDP population across assessed communities were residing in emergency shelters and 6% were residing makeshift shelters. KIs in 116 communities (25%) reported that 26-50% of the IDP population were residing in overcrowded shelters. In most assessed communities (66%), KIs reported that there are no more livelihood opportunities, leaving both host community and IDP households extremely vulnerable. The IDP population has become significantly reliant on non-productive means of livelihoods such as remittances, aid, or loans.
In 81% of assessed communities people reportedly faced problems in obtaining humanitarian assistance with 'not enough assistance for all in need,' reported as a problem in 91% of assessed communities. In just 49% of assessed communities, KIs reported that people consumed three meals a day. KIs in Kafroum and Qatmet Efrin communities located in Afrin sub-district reported that the majority of the population consumed just one meal per day.
KIs reported the presence of vulnerable groups across assessed communities. Notably, 14% of the total female population were reportedly pregnant or lactating whilst 7% of the total population were reportedly elderly persons over 60 years. Both groups are particularly at risk from COVID-19.2 COVID-19 has the potential to disrupt the provision of humanitarian assistance across all sectors and increase people's vulnerability. It is therefore essential that an upscaled and targeted humanitarian response is delivered in order to meet people's needs.