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Recent Developments in Northwest Syria - Situation Report No. 22 - As of 18 November 2020

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HIGHLIGHTS

• Some 80 percent of all confirmed COVID-19 cases in northwest Syria were identified in the past month. Seven new treatment centres have been added, for a total of 26 with a capacity of 1,110 beds, and precautionary measures are being reintroduced especially in the Idleb area.

• Ongoing hostilities encroach on population areas, leading to higher civilian casualties.

• Flooding destroyed and damaged tents in at least 10 IDP sites, and caused access issues in many others.

• The SYP is on a downward trend, devaluing some 15 percent against the USD in the past month, while prices in the northwest have fluctuated according to exchange rate trends.

SITUATION OVERVIEW

Intensifying hostilities: Communities continue to endure bombardment, especially south of the M4 highway and around the M5 highway. Casualty figures reported by local sources are on the rise as hostilities increasingly encroach on population centres, such as on 4 November when intense shelling was reported in communities across Ariha and Idleb districts, harming numerous civilians and killing two workers of a Syrian NGO. Several airstrikes were also recorded during the reporting period, most notably in Dweila on 26 October, in an incident away from the frontlines and several hundred metres from several IDP camps, prompting widespread demonstrations against the hostilities. Overall, according to local sources, at least 22 civilians were killed (including six children) and at least 59 civilians were injured as a result of shelling and airstrikes since the last situation report on 20 October. The security situation is further undermined by the prevalence of explosive hazards and in-fighting between NSAGs, which take a toll on civilian life. Since 20 October, local sources reported at least 10 people killed and 19 people injured in nine IED and four landmine incidents in northwest Syria, while many more IEDs, landmines and UXOs were discovered and neutralised.

COVID-19: The identification of COVID-19 cases in northwest Syria is accelerating, with 13,179 confirmed cases as of 18 November – 7,530 cases in the Idleb area and 5,649 in northern Aleppo governorate. Some 80 percent of all confirmed cases were recorded in the past one month. Daily testing capacity has exceeded 1,400 tests in a day, with 45,924 tests performed to date. 95 COVID-19 associated deaths have been recorded and 4,906 people have reportedly recovered.

Since the last situation report on 20 October, the percentage of current cases among healthcare workers increased to some 15 percent, including nurses, doctors, technician, midwives and non-medical staff. A significant increase of positive cases has also been noted among students and teachers, weeks after the reopening of schools in September. With nearly 60 percent of all cases in Idleb governorate and over a third of all cases at the time in Idleb sub-district, the Idleb health authorities issued a statement on 6 November calling for additional support to hospitals, health centres and health workers in the area, and Idleb authorities have begun reintroducing temporary precautionary measures such as the closure of markets and suspension of in-person schooling. Additionally, humanitarian partners are in the process of setting up the first quarantine centre in northwest Syria. This will provide an isolation option for people who have been exposed to suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases, and for whom isolating amid the crowded everyday living conditions may not otherwise be possible. With some 8 percent of cases in camps and rising, the need for this is particularly acute.

Flooding: Rainfall during the reporting period caused widespread damage to IDP sites across northwest Syria, inducing flooding and damage to tents. CCCM partners reported that at least 25 tents were completely destroyed and 345 tents were partially damaged, affecting at least 334 households in 10 IDP sites in Maaret Tamsrin and Dana sub-districts in Idleb governorate and Atareb sub-district in western Aleppo governorate. Beyond this, dozens of IDP sites were reportedly affected by flooding that inhibited movement and in some cases caused sewage overflows.
SYP devaluation: The value of the Syrian Pound (SYP) against the US Dollar continued to weaken steadily, reaching around 2,680 SYP/USD in northwest Syria on 17 November. This is the first time the SYP has reached this level since June 2020, as its value was recovering from record lows of some 3,200 SYP/USD reached earlier that month. The SYP today is over 190 percent weaker than at the start of the year, and has devalued some 15 percent against the USD in the last month.

Price fluctuations: Fuel prices returned to similar levels as at the end of September 2020, following two price increases and two price decreases since the last situation report on 20 October, in line with fluctuations in the value of the Turkish Lira (TRY) against the US Dollar. Despite decreasing since 10 November, prices remain notably higher than when they first began to be posted in TRY five months ago. Compared to 14 June and as of 14 November, per litre prices are higher by around 26 percent for “imported first type benzine”, 23 percent for “imported first type diesel”, 14 percent for locally refined diesel and 30 percent for a gas cylinder. The increase in fuel prices has negative knock-on effects on the cost and supply of other goods and services. This includes transportation and electricity as well as staple items such as bread and vital functions such as medical services and emergency response operations. It exacerbates concerns about increased health and fire risks, particularly with the arrival of winter and increased demand for heating. Inaccessibility of safe heating sources leads to reliance on negative coping mechanisms such as burning unsafe materials, which in previous years has resulted in outbreaks of fires in IDP sites and other residential areas as well as poisoned people through the emission of toxic fumes.
During the reporting period, electricity prices were also raised, while the price of bread in the Idleb area rose and fell alongside fuel prices, culminating at 6 percent more expensive than a month ago.

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