• Humanitarian situation across northwest Syria, particularly in Idleb and Aleppo governorates continue to deteriorate at an alarming rate due to ongoing violence, which has a devastating effect on the four million people in northwest Syria.
• From 1 December 2019 to 2 February 2020, some 586,000 people fled from their homes in northwest Syria as a result of ongoing hostilities. Many of them have been displaced many times throughout the Syria crisis, eroding the resilience of families and communities.
• This latest emergency compounds an already dire humanitarian situation for people in northwest Syria who have been made vulnerable by years of crisis, violence, economic downturn and multiple displacements.
The humanitarian situation in northwest Syria continues to deteriorate at an alarming rate. From 1 December 2019 to 2 February 2020, over half a million people displaced in northwest Syria. Some 200,000 of these individuals displaced over one week from 26 January to 2 February. Since late November, airstrikes and shelling gradually increased across the Idleb area, including parts of northern Hama and western Aleppo. This increase has a devastating impact on more than three million people living in this area. As the hostilities expanded further into the Idleb area, more and more communities were displaced from southern Idleb and western Aleppo governorates. They moved seeking safety in areas further north. Since late January, increased military activity in western Aleppo governorate accelerated displacement as civilians from these areas began to flee fearing that their communities would be directly affected by fighting. More displacement from areas that received IDPs until recently such as Ariha, Idleb city, Bennsh and Sarmin are increasingly being reported.
The resilience of communities, families and individuals who have been displaced many times as a result of hostilities is eroding. While some 144,000 of these newly displaced individuals moved to areas in northern Aleppo governorate such as Afrin, A’zaz, Jandairis and Al Bab, the majority of the displaced people moved to other areas within Idleb governorate such as Dana, Maaret Tamsrin, Idleb and Salqin sub-districts. These areas that has received displaced people for years were the destination for the majority of 400,000 displaced people who have been displaced from southern Idleb and northern Hama from May to September 2019. People are being concentrated into a smaller area, exacerbating the humanitarian situation as well as compounding vulnerabilities. As such, the immediate absorption capacity of the camps has been surpassed while towns and villages are overburdened with new arrivals. According to CCCM data, all new displaced people are in need of non-food items while 79 percent needs shelter assistance and 57 percent needs food and cash assistance.
The escalation of hostilities has also led to a major surge in displacements from Aleppo city and its vicinity pushing out to as far as Ar-Raqqa. Communities try and seek shelter in areas that they consider to be safer, which are already overcrowded with IDPs and have limited humanitarian assistance.
Winter weather conditions compound the vulnerability of the newly displaced people as well as host communities. Flooding in camps and informal settlements is frequently reported throughout winter, with the latest affecting some 50 families in Armanaz in Idleb governorate on 31 January. On the same day a windstorm struck northwest Syria, causing damage in the areas of Dana, Atma, Hazzano and Jisr-Ash-Shugur. Local sources reported that the windstorm caused damage to several camps, affecting more than 470 families. On the night of 28-29 January, a fire in Bab Al-Nour IDP camp in northern Aleppo governorate reportedly resulted in the death of a child and damaged four tents.
Airstrikes and shelling continue to take a heavy toll on civilian lives. On 3 February, a van transporting a family from Kafr Nafra in western Aleppo countryside was reportedly hit by an airstrike, resulting in the death of nine civilians including three women and four children. On the same day, local sources reported that airstrikes hit a kindergarten in Bala, resulting in the death of two children and a woman. On 29 January, airstrikes on Ariha city, hosting many IDPs who fled from southern Idleb, reportedly killed ten people including four women and a child and heavily damaged a bakery. Since 1 January 2020, local sources reported that more than 180 civilians were killed due to hostilities including some 60 children and 27 women in Idleb area, including western Aleppo governorate.
Neighbourhoods in Aleppo city were also affected by intense shelling, especially those on the western parts of the city. On 1 February, shelling reportedly hit residential neighborhoods of New Aleppo, New Shahba and Al Zahra in separate incidents, killing four civilians and injuring over 13. An attack on 4 February on Al Hamadaniyah neighborhood killed four civilians and injured over ten. The same neighbourhood was affected the next day in an attack that killed five civilians, including two children and a pregnant woman, and injured seven. In 2020, 280 projectiles were recorded in Aleppo city killing 27 civilians and injuring 58 others.
Hostilities have a devastating impact on key civilian infrastructure, particularly health facilities across Idleb and western Aleppo governorates. On 6 February, local sources reported that a primary health centre was damaged due to hostilities in Andan in western Aleppo countryside. An NGO partner reported that Al Hikma Hospital and Al Nour Hospitals in Teftnaz were damaged due to airstrikes on 5 February, putting them out of service. On 4 February, local sources reported that a primary health center and a hospital in Sarmin were both damaged due to airstrikes and were put out of service. On 30 January, the Ariha Central Hospital also known as the al-Shami Surgical Hospital was reportedly hit by airstrikes, resulting in extensive damage including to the emergency unit, laboratory, radiology room, hospitalization wards, and surgical theater.
In addition, the hospital warehouse was partially destroyed with most of the drugs and medical consumables damaged or lost. On 26 January, an airstrike reportedly hit Al Iman Hospital in Sarja town near Ariha city causing severe damages to the hospital and partial damage to one ambulance in the vicinity of the hospital. In January, at least 53 health facilities have suspended services due to insecurity or mass displacement according to the World Health Organization, warning of critical health threats facing people in northwest Syria who had to flee due to hostilities.
Hostilities continue to affect civilians in northern Aleppo governorate. On 4 February, local sources reported that artillery shelling hit a school in Afrin town, reportedly killing one civilian man and injuring eight students. Several instances of artillery shelling were reported in the vicinity of Afrin and A’zaz, putting in danger the lives of civilians.
Women and children are once again disproportionately affected by the hostilities. An estimated 80 percent of those who were recently displaced are women and children. One NGO estimates that as many as 200,000 children and their families had been forced to flee their homes in northern Syria.
In light of increasing humanitarian needs in Idleb area, the humanitarian community is working tirelessly to scale up the humanitarian response. The Northwest Syria Humanitarian Readiness and Response Plan was updated to cover the needs related to displacement since 1 December 2019 with a funding requirement of an additional USD 336 million for the next 6 months. The ongoing humanitarian operation not only aims to support those who were most recently displaced, but all people in need across northwest Syria. In January, 1,227 trucks of UN humanitarian assistance were sent to northwest Syria through Bab Al Hawa and Bab Al Salama border crossings. 888 of these trucks carried food assistance for some 1.4 million people. Others carried health supplies to cover almost half a million people, non-food items for more than 230,000 and education support for 180,000 people. Assistance provided by the UN complements the humanitarian assistance provided by non-governmental organizations and other entities, reaching overall a much larger number of people. However, hostilities continue to impact the ongoing humanitarian work as many workers themselves are now among the displaced population and many humanitarian actors had to suspend operations due to the security situation. In Aleppo city, humanitarian staff operating there have experienced critical security concerns, and experience restricted access given the indiscriminate shelling into the city. As of 2 February some aid distribution points in the western parts of Aleppo city were relocated to safer areas.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.