Northwest Syria: Winter at the Doors
Geography and Demography
The 9,000 square kilometer area commonly referred to as northwest Syria includes parts of Idlib, western Aleppo, northern Hama, and eastern Latakia, and is home to 3 million people, nearly 2.5 million of whom are identified as being in need of humanitarian assistance. A massive influx of internally displaced persons (IDPs) coupled with continued bombardment throughout the conflict has led to increasing reliance on humanitarian aid.
The ongoing conflict in northwest Syria, as well as major offensives in other parts of the country, has caused waves of internal displacement towards safer areas along the Turkish border.
Humanitarian Crisis in Northwest Syria
A new wave of military escalation began in northwest Syria on April 26th, 2019, causing a massive humanitarian crisis marked by the largest wave of displacement in Syria since the beginning of the conflict. UNOCHA estimated in early September 2019 that at least 630,000 IDPs had been displaced between the beginning of May and the beginning of August. This represents the largest IDP movement of the 21st century, while the humanitarian response has been vastly weaker.
In addition to mass displacement, this escalation has seen the destruction of humanitarian infrastructure and targeting of health care facilities. As a result, access to life-sustaining medical services has been cut off for residents who are largely unable to return home.
While a ceasefire was declared on August 31, bombardment has not stopped entirely, and has continued to prolong and exacerbate the humanitarian crisis. Most IDPs remain unable to return to their homes due to the ongoing insecurity. The crisis is further worsened by the looming arrival of winter.
South of the city of Armanaz in the western Idlib countryside, families from al-Ghab Plains have set up camp in an area considered relatively safe. Ghazi al-Khattab, director of al-Rayyan Camp, says: “Al-Rayyan Camp consists of 130 families, making it one of the larger camps in the area. The families who reside here are from the towns of al-Shari’a and al-Haweez in al-Ghab Plains in the western Hama countryside. The camp is in constant need of medical services and aid in general.”
Hazem Ahmed, age 27, is from the town of al-Shari’a. Injuries he sustained due to bombardment led to the amputation of his right leg. “Since that time,” Hazem says, “I’ve been unable to move and trying to secure necessities for my household is embarrassing.” Hazem is not the only one in his family whose health has been impacted by the conflict, he explains: “My 9-year-old son, Ahmed, has had cerebral atrophy since birth. He is unable to move, and my difficult situation has been made worse by my inability to provide for my son.”