In its fourth year of the conflict, the civilian population in Syria continues to bear the brunt in terms of humanitarian needs and protection. Estimates indicate that 10.8 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, 6.5 million of whom are IDPs, and over 2.9 million have fled to neighbouring countries. There are over 100 known internally displaced camps housing over 160,000 people near the Turkish border and the number continues to rise. Compounding the humanitarian needs of the displaced, are the needs of 4.7 million people who reside in ‘hard-to-reach’ areas, and the roughly 220,000 people, who live in besieged areas.
Access to affected populations remains a main constraint for humanitarian organisations providing assistance and services. Government consolidation in central and southern Syria has blocked almost all cross-border access routes to opposition areas in Homs and Damascus. Government forces advances in Aleppo have seen incremental moves to surround the city, threatening the only access route in opposition-controlled neighbourhoods. ISIS expansion in the northeast has prompted Turkish authorities to close key border crossings from Turkey, while access to areas under Kurdish control remains highly restricted, as a result of restrictions placed by Turkish authorities on Kurdish authorities or Government of Syria controlled crossings.
While humanitarian access is difficult, it is not impossible. Few opposition groups have categorically denied access to populations in need with the exception of a besieged area and Kurdish areas, which have been subject to varying degrees of restricted access. Meetings with opposition groups on humanitarian principles and the need to ensure free humanitarian access to populations in need have sensitised many armed groups to their responsibilities in areas under their influence or control. Access negotiations are often undertaken for a specific delivery to a specific location. Such localised level negotiations is practical given the multitude of opposition actors on the ground, and the lack of a centralised command structure coordinating most opposition groups.
Despite the risks and challenges, over 35 international NGOs, a significant number of Syrian NGOs, and at least 25 Turkish NGOs provide humanitarian assistance and services to those in need and who are reachable from Turkey.
As a result of the increasing humanitarian needs, coupled with the increasing complexity of the humanitarian operation for Syria based in Turkey, the Humanitarian Liaison Group (HLG), decided that it should have a response plan, covering twelve months and all humanitarian sectors. In February 2014, stakeholder consultations with all constituent groups took place in Gaziantep and Antakya to discuss the way forward on designing a plan that would satisfy the needs of the humanitarian community. In April 2014, roughly 150 people from 955 organizations, donors, and sector working groups met and agreed on six key strategic objectives that a response plan for humanitarian operations in Syria from Turkey should have. Following that workshop, the sector working groups met with their respective members to determine what critical priorities they should focus on, and what the cost to address those priorities should be.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.