Between 28 May and 7 June 2017, REACH, in collaboration with SIRF, assessed the humanitarian situation in 42 communities in Syria currently facing movement and access restrictions, 18 of which are classified as besieged by the UN, and 24 as hard-to-reach.1 The data gathered refers to the humanitarian situation in May. All profiled communities were located in Damascus, Deir ez Zor, Homs and Rural Damascus governorates, and information was collected through a total of 163 community representatives (CRs). In May, coverage of the besieged neighbourhoods of Joura and Qosour in Deir ez Zor city resumed, after access issues had prevented data collection in April. There were no further changes in coverage compared to April.
Ceasefires reached in early May in Burza and Jober, whilst leading to a de-escalation of conflict, resulted in mixed outcomes, as access restrictions played a key role in humanitarian impact. In Jober, civilian mobility increased, and consequently an improvement in access to food, NFIs, fuel and medical services was reported. Conversely, in Burza, extreme access restrictions remained in place, negatively affecting food security and health services.
Following a shift in control, the majority of residents in Qaboun (3,000-3,500 people) left the community in May; for those remaining, the humanitarian situation remained critical with no other movement permitted, and no access to markets or health services. In May, water infrastructure was destroyed, the last medical facility closed, remaining medical personnel left the community, and medical items were seized.
Following the implementation of the Four Towns Agreement3 in Madaya, restrictions on movement and access to the community were partially lifted for the first time since assessments began in June 2016. This resulted in an overall improvement to the humanitarian situation in the community, as all types of goods were able to enter via commercial vehicles and civilians, health facilities reopened, and access to the water and electricity networks was partially restored.
Conflict escalated across all communities assessed in Deir ez Zor governorate (Abu Kamal, Joura, Qosour, Sosa), with several casualties reported. In Abu Kamal and Sosa, ongoing hostilities prompted local authorities to open formal access points, increasing overall civilian movement; however, populations were only allowed to move to other areas under the control of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Levant.
The humanitarian situation continued to improve in Al Waer and the Wadi Burda communities, which had implemented local agreements in March and January 2017, respectively. A final round of evacuations from Al Waer occurred in May, with an estimated 4,000-6,000 residents remaining in the community by the end of the month, in accordance with the local agreement. Access to various goods and services increased in May. In Wadi Burda, a humanitarian aid distribution containing food, NFIs and medical items reached all assessed communities. It was the second aid delivery since assessments of the area began in August 2016.
Of the 42 communities assessed:
Humanitarian aid reached Burza, Deir ez Zor city (Joura, Qosour), the Eastern Ghouta region, Hama and Qudsiya, Qaboun and Wadi Burda in May (a total of 23 communities); no aid was delivered to the remaining 19 assessed locations.
Four communities reported no civilian movement (Burza, Joura, Qaboun, Qosour), while in 12 communities only 1-10% of populations could leave or enter the relevant areas. Across all assessed locations, eight communities reported unrestricted civilian movement (subject to documentation requirements).
Based on data regarding the humanitarian situation in April, populations indicated critical levels of vulnerability in the communities of Burza, Joura and Qosour, and Qaboun. Conversely, the communities of Al Waer, Madaya and the Wadi Burda area experienced relative improvements, although ongoing monitoring will be required to assess further developments in these locations.