Syria

Recent Developments in Northwest Syria - Situation Report No. 16 - As of 26 June 2020

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HIGHLIGHTS

• The rapid devaluation of the Syrian Pound has created severe economic instability and is making daily life unaffordable and unlivable for people in northwest Syria.

• This has a disproportionate effect on women, children, the elderly, the disabled, and others with specific vulnerabilities. Reports of child labour and child marriage, domestic violence, and scavenging for food or supplies are increasing.

• New displacement is being reported from some frontline locations following conflict in these areas, while returns to other areas continue to be reported.

• COVID-19 preparedness and prevention measures continue, while no cases have yet been confirmed in northwest Syria.

SITUATION OVERVIEW

The humanitarian situation for people northwest Syria remains severe as the impact of COVID-19 preventative measures, and the rapid devaluation of the Syrian Pound (SYP) are putting additional strain on the population, already suffering from the effects of nine years of conflict, insecurity, displacement and economic hardship. Of the 4.1 million people in northwest Syria, an estimated 2.8 million are in need of humanitarian assistance to meet basic needs such as food, shelter, water, health and education while the impact of these recent developments is entrenching the existing humanitarian needs and creating new ones.

Since early June 2020, the value of the SYP began to decline rapidly, losing half of its value within a month and reaching new historical lows. The most recent wave of devaluation is a continuation of the economic turbulence that has been affecting the Syrian people across the country, particularly since late 2019. In real terms, the SYP weakened by some 360 percent in a year since June 2019, eroding the purchasing power of the people, rendering them more vulnerable in the face of any new shocks. This most recent devaluation resulted in massive price increases, triggering shortages of food and other key supplies in markets. The price of the minimum amount of basic goods that people need for their survival such as food, water, fuel and hygiene items has been increasing every month since November 2019, also reaching historical highs in May 2020. The economic decline also adds another layer of complexity in an already challenging operating environment. For instance, key humanitarian activities such as water trucking or local procurement of food items are reportedly becoming difficult due to the instability of the currency.

While there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in northwest Syria, the pandemic and its secondary effects continue to have a significant impact on the humanitarian situation. COVID-19 is a driver of additional humanitarian needs and a multiplier that exacerbates the pre-existing needs of a vulnerable population. The restrictions of movement and limitations on commercial activities such as markets which were introduced as a public safety measure to counter the spread of COVID19 contribute to the intensification of humanitarian needs, as well as the overall impact of the pandemic on the global and local economy While humanitarian actors adapted their key activities and procedures to mitigate COVID-19 related risks, certain activities had to be suspended to protect the affected population as well as humanitarian workers.

An important driver of humanitarian needs in northwest Syria is displacement. Of the 4.1 million people living in northwest Syria, 2.7 million people are estimated to be internally displaced. Some 780,000 of the nearly 1 million people displaced between December 2019 and early March 2020 are estimated to remain in displacement. Longer-term needs of those who are displaced are increasing, including for health, nutrition and education services, even as urgent needs for shelter, food, water, sanitation, hygiene and protection persist. Overall, more than 1.4 million IDPs are living in IDP camps and settlements in precarious conditions and 80 percent of these individuals are women and children. On 19 June, heavy rainstorms in the Maaret Tamsrin sub-district of the Idleb governorate reportedly caused large floods in some 20 IDP sites destroying and damaging hundreds of tents and directly affecting some 1,300 IDPs. The flooding also reportedly caused substantial material damage, including sewage overflows and putting some latrines out of service.

Moreover, those who have returned to their host communities, particularly in western Aleppo governorate and southern Idleb, continue to face challenges. Humanitarian actors are steadily increasing their activities in these areas, where they were forced to suspend their services during the previous period of hostilities. While the displacement had come to a halt since early March with the relative in the Idleb area, reports of an increase in hostilities in June and renewed displacement from areas along the frontlines, including of recently received returnees, are extremely worrying. Moreover, the overall security situation in northern Aleppo governorate and the Idleb area deteriorates periodically as a result of improvised explosive device incidents as well as armed confrontations and clashes involving non-state armed groups and civilians, which puts the lives of civilians in danger and complicates the operational environment for humanitarian work.

Women, boys and girls who make up 76 percent of the population of northwest Syria continue to be affected disproportionately by the overall conflict. For instance, more children are likely to be out of school due to the economic crisis, as families struggle to cover education costs and may resort to harmful activities such as child labour and child marriage. Increased malnutrition rates for mothers and children are being reported by humanitarian actors working on the ground. Humanitarian actors are reporting an increase of people searching for food in rubbish containers as well as women and children searching for sellable and reusable materials in landfills to survive. Female-headed households report an average income 33 percent lower than the national average, making them exceptionally susceptible to economic shocks.

Protection needs for women, boys and girls are also increasing, as reported cases of domestic violence rise throughout northwest Syria as of late May. New cases of families forcing their young daughters to take hormones and other medications believing this would fasten puberty, enabling them to get married and conceive afterwards.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.