SITUATION AT A GLANCE
Estimated Population in Need of Humanitarian Assistance in Syria
UN – Sep. 2020
Estimated Food-Insecure Population in Syria
UN – Sep. 2020
Estimated Number of IDPs in Syria
UN – Oct. 2020
Estimated People USAID/BHA Reaches per Month in Syria
UN – Oct. 2020
Estimated People State/PRM Reaches per Month in Syria
UN – Oct. 2020
An increase in hostilities in northwest Syria— including artillery shelling and airstrikes—harms humanitarian workers and other civilians, while threatening to exacerbate humanitarian needs in the region.
As Syria’s COVID-19 outbreak surpasses 27,000 confirmed cases, humanitarian agencies warn of an increasingly stressed health care system.
USAID/BHA and State/PRM partners provide critical winterization support to IDPs and other vulnerable communities, along with life-saving food, health, nutrition, protection, shelter, and WASH assistance.
Increased Hostilities Affect Civilians, Humanitarian Workers in Northwest
During October and November, hostilities resulted in deaths and injuries among humanitarian workers and other civilians in northwest Syria. In late October, relief actors reported that three airstrikes occurred in Idlib Governorate’s Armanaz sub-district, one of which reportedly struck an area close to a displacement camp and injured at least five civilians, including three children. The UN also continues to report improvised explosive device (IED) attacks in the region, including an October 6 vehicle-borne IED attack in Aleppo Governorate’s Al Bab city that killed at least 18 civilians—including five children— and injured at least 62 others, including 11 children and three local non-governmental organization (NGO) staff. Clashes continued in early November, with artillery shelling affecting multiple communities in Idlib’s Ariha District on November 4 and killing at least eight civilians—including four children and two local NGO workers—and injuring at least 13 others, according to a UN statement regarding the recent escalation of violence.
COVID-19 Cases Surpass 27,000, Presenting Health Care Challenges
Health actors continue to report rising COVID-19 prevalence across Syria, with more than 27,000 COVID-19 cases confirmed to date; the total represents a more than 300 percent increase compared to the number of confirmed cases at the end of September. However, actual caseloads likely exceed official estimates due to limited testing capacity countrywide, according to the UN. As of November 20, health actors had reported more than 13,500 confirmed COVID-19 cases in northwest Syria and nearly 6,500 cases in the northeast, while the Syrian Arab Republic Government (SARG) Ministry of Health had reported nearly 7,000 confirmed cases in SARG-held areas.
The rise of COVID-19 prevalence countrywide has strained Syria’s already fragile health system. Health facilities in some areas lack the capacity to absorb additional cases and have reportedly begun turning away patients due to lack of beds, oxygen tanks, and ventilators, humanitarian actors report. Only 50 percent of hospitals across Syria are fully functioning, while 25 percent are only partially functioning, due to shortage of equipment, medicine, and staff, as well as damage to facilities, according to the UN World Health Organization (WHO).
In November, local authorities in northeast Syria responded to the rise in COVID-19 cases by extending mitigation measures—including a partial curfew, the closure of non-food market vendors, bans on large gatherings, limits on religious services, and basic preventative measures for administrative buildings and educational facilities. Although mitigation measures require the public to wear masks, no enforcement mechanism has been put in place, according to the UN. Key challenges to reducing the spread of COVID-19 include under-reporting due to social stigma, limited adherence to preventive measures, and high levels of transmission among health care workers. In the northwest, health actors are prioritizing surge planning in hospitals, infection prevention and control measures, and psychosocial support for staff. Health organizations are also scaling up COVID-19 testing capacity, particularly in areas with high levels of transmission, including Aleppo’s Al Bab and Jarabulus sub-districts and Idlib’s Dana and Idlib sub-districts. Between September and early November, daily testing capacity in northwest Syria nearly quadrupled—averaging more than 800 COVID-19 tests per day—due to the establishment of new testing laboratories, the UN reports. However, despite efforts to expand capacity, relief organizations in northwest Syria continue to report increased demand for COVID-19 testing supplies, as well as a general shortage of critical items such as personal protective equipment (PPE).
Deteriorating Economic Conditions Compound Needs in Northwest
Deteriorating economic conditions remain a primary challenge for vulnerable communities in northwest Syria, according to a September REACH survey of nearly 900 communities in Aleppo, Idlib, and Hamah governorates. The assessment found that the depreciation of the Syrian Pound against the U.S. Dollar, the instability of the Turkish Lira, and declining purchasing power continue to negatively impact food security conditions and livelihoods in the region, with more than 90 percent of surveyed communities citing low wages as a barrier to fulfilling basic needs and approximately 80 percent of respondents citing high food prices as the top barrier to accessing sufficient food. The assessment also found that high prices hinder vulnerable populations’ access to electricity; safe shelter; water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services; and other basic commodities. Moreover, lack of sufficient income has contributed to an increased use of child labor, as well as forced or early marriage. Overall, respondents cited access to livelihood opportunities, food, and household items as critical needs. While respondents in 70 percent of communities reported that households were able to access humanitarian assistance, more than 90 percent reported that the aid provided was insufficient to address needs.
Relief Agencies Provide Winterization Assistance to Vulnerable Populations
As of early October, the Shelter and Non-Food Item (SNFI) Cluster—the coordinating body for humanitarian SNFI activities, comprising UN agencies, NGOs, and other stakeholders—estimated that approximately 3.1 million people were in need of winterization assistance across Syria, including cold weather shelter needs. In the northwest, many tents and makeshift shelters are not appropriately weatherized to withstand harsh conditions, while some IDPs in the northeast reside in overcrowded, isolated, and deteriorating collective shelters, leaving many at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 as winter approaches. As such, IDPs and other vulnerable communities across Syria are in need of heating fuel and other heating solutions. As of early November, SNFI Cluster members—including State/PRM and USAID/BHA partners—had distributed blankets, heating fuel, heater stoves, and winter clothing kits for adults and children to more than 14,000 people in the northeast. Cluster members have also distributed thermal blankets, plastic sheeting, sleeping bags, and winter clothing to nearly 269,000 people in other parts of Syria. SNFI Cluster partners are prioritizing beneficiaries residing in camps, collective shelters, informal settlements, and areas of high altitude and snowfall.