Syria Crisis: Northeast Syria Situation Report No. 25 (15 May 2018 – 15 June 2018) [EN/AR]

Report
from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 15 Jun 2018

This report is produced by the OCHA Syria Crisis offices with the contribution of all sectors in the hubs and at the Whole of Syria (WoS) level. The situation overview covers the period from 15 May – 15 June 2018. The next report will be issued on or around 20 July 2018.

Highlights

  • An estimated 138,000 individuals returned to Ar-Raqqa city since October 2017 and 188,000 to Deir-ez Zor governorate since November 2017, although conditions for returns remain unsafe due to high levels of contamination of explosive hazards.

  • Although humanitarian actors are gradually increasing their presence and operations in major areas of return in Ar-Raqqa city, explosive hazard contamination remains a major protection concern, which continues to hamper humanitarian access and operations, assessments and safe returns in both governorates.

  • There are reports of a deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Dashisha area in Al-Hasakeh Governorate following an escalation of hostilities since 1 May. Reportedly, limited groups of IDPs from these areas managed to reach IDP sites in Al-Hasakeh Governorate and are being hosted in the existing IDP sites.

  • Following an earlier UN Security Risk Assessment (SRA) to Ar-Raqqa city in March, between 12 and 15 June UNDSS and UNMAS conducted another mission to Al Qamishli and Ar-Raqqa city to reassess the security situation inside ArRaqqa city, including the risks presented by hazard contamination, and to explore ways to support UN programme delivery in Ar-Raqqa and Tabqa cities.

  • Between 10 March and 9 June some 488 cases of acute bloody diarrhea have been reported in Deir-ez-Zor Governorate due to consumption of contaminated water. UN and NGO partners are working to scale up their response through WASH and health assistance.

138,00

Returnees to Ar-Raqqa city since October 2017.

188,000

Returnees to Deir-ez-Zor governorate since November 2017.

99,845

protection interventions conducted in Ar-Raqqa, Al-Hasakeh and Deir-ez-Zor governorates in April.

661,600

people reached with food baskets and emergency food rations in ArRaqqa,
Aleppo, Al-Hasakeh and Deir-ez-Zor governorates in April 2018.

277,623

people with improved access to lifesaving/ emergency WASH facilities and services in Ar-Raqqa, AlHasakeh and Deir-ez-Zor governorates in April 2018.

55,825

boys and girls and PLW reached with nutrition assistance in Ar-Raqqa,
Aleppo, Al-Hasakeh and Deir-ezZor governorates, as well as the Menbij sub-district in Aleppo governorate in April 2018.

Situation Overview

Ar-Raqqa governorate

Explosive hazard contamination remains the main barrier to scaling up the response inside Ar-Raqqa city. Despite a gradual reduction in the average number of blast-related cases reported by health facilities from more than 170 per month in December 2017 and January 2018 to an estimated 23 in May 2018, the returnee population and humanitarian staff remain exposed to significant protection risks. Indeed, deaths and injuries resulting from explosive hazard contamination continue to be frequently reported; with a total of 618 casualties recorded by health facilities between 20 November 2017 to 8 June 2018 in Ar-Raqqa city alone. Many of these casualties were the result of people checking on their houses, tampering with unidentified objects and rubble removal.

Meanwhile, mine risk education activities continue across Ar-Raqqa city since January 2018 and humanitarian actors are further scaling up these activities, including by providing risk education and training of trainers in IDP sites in ArRaqqa and Al-Hasakeh governorates. Humanitarian mine action survey, marking and clearance operations continue in Ar-Raqqa governorate, including in the outskirts of Ar-Raqqa city. However, clearance operations continue to be focused on critical infrastructure, with many residential areas still considered contaminated. Stabilization actors resumed clearance of key infrastructure in Ar-Raqqa city since early June, with coordination mechanisms established to ensure that humanitarian considerations are reflected in the prioritized areas for clearance.

Approximately 295,823 people from and within Ar-Raqqa Governorate were displaced due to military operations in 2017, according to the Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) Cluster. Some are still hosted in the various IDP sites as well as surrounding rural areas. However, conditions are still not in place for the safe, dignified and sustainable return of IDPs to most parts of the Governorate. Displacement is likely to become more protracted, as indicated by consultations undertaken earlier this year with IDPs in major sites in Al-Hasakeh and Ar-Raqqa governorates. Despite these risks, as of June 2018 an estimated 138,000 individuals have returned to Ar-Raqqa city since October 2017, from IDP sites as well as the rural areas around the city where some part of the population had also sought safety during the height of hostilities. Currently, the majority of returns have been from Jurneyya and ArRaqqa farms, located on the outskirts of the city, while returns to the city from IDP sites were more limited.

For those living in IDP sites, overall living conditions reportedly remain challenging, despite the consolidation of site structures. On 30 May, a storm struck areas in Ar-Raqqa’s northern countryside, causing extensive damage to Ain Issa IDP camp where some 13,000 IDPs are currently residing. A reported 1,314 tents were damaged or flooded, with approximately one-third of all tents in the camp destroyed. School buildings and the communal kitchen were also reportedly affected, while over 1,000 NFIs were lost or destroyed. As of the first week of June, only 230 additional tents had so far been provided.

Access to basic services within Ar-Raqqa city continues to gradually improve: A government-administered health center in the Ar-Rafika neighborhood reopened and a new private hospital serving Ar-Raqqa city in April, the sole government-administered gynecology hospital in Ar-Raqqa governorate, also reopened on the 21 May following its rehabilitation led by an INGO. The hospital provides free treatment to women for natural and Caesarean deliveries, providing a lifeline for many families who are unable to cover private hospital costs. In addition, on the 3 June, MSF announced the opening of the first primary healthcare clinic in Ar-Raqqa city, with a capacity to receive 100 patients per day. This primary healthcare clinic is in addition to five private hospitals also operational in Ar-Raqqa city where services are provided for a fee.

Major repairs of the Al Furosya Electricity Station, the main station that provides power to Ar-Raqqa city and its surrounding areas, was completed in mid-May. As a result, communities in the northern countryside of Ar-Raqqa now have access to the main electricity network. The rehabilitation of the internal electrical networks in Ar-Raqqa city will provide access to the network in populated neighborhoods. Currently, the electricity grid only supplies electricity to infrastructure sites (such as pumping stations) within Ar-Raqqa city. During the reporting period, the Ain Issa Electricity Station reopened after being non-operational for three years. This station will reportedly supply electricity to over 400 villages across multiple governorates in northern Syria.

Rehabilitation of the water network within Ar-Raqqa city continues at a slow pace. Only 50 per cent of the city reportedly receives water through the network, often in insufficient quantity. In neighborhoods which do have access to the water network supply is often intermittent, with concerns over the water quality and related health risks. During the reporting period for instance, the water network supply to the Abu Remeileh neighborhood in Ar-Raqqa city was interrupted due to a defect in the system, affecting some 1,000 families. As such water trucking is still considered the main means for water supply inside the city. There is a risk that movements to reach water points may further expose people to safety risks due to explosive hazard contamination. During the month of May, the rehabilitation of the Ar-Rafika Farm pumping station and its electricity panels commenced. The Ar-Rafika Farm pumping station has been out of service since 2011 and is located some 15km west of Ar-Raqqa city. Its rehabilitation will increase the quantity of water pumped to farms for irrigation purposes and will also provide limited electricity supply to these farms.

Deir-ez-Zor Governorate

Since 1 May, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have launched two separate offensives against ISIL-pockets in Al Hasakeh Governorate (Dashisha and surrounding areas, along the Syria-Iraq border) and in Deir-ez-Zor Governorate (Hajin to Abu Kamal). ISIL had reportedly regained control of Al-Hasrat village in eastern rural Abu Kamal city on 18 April.

The SDF reportedly took full control over the Baghouz Tahtani areas in northeastern Abu Kamal sub-district on 14 May, with a full sweep of Al Baghouz town reportedly under way. ISIL reportedly retains control over only three areas: Hajin, Al Susah and Al Sha’afa. In mid-May hundreds of civilians were reportedly displaced from Hajin town on the east bank of the Euphrates in southern rural Deir-ez-Zor due to armed clashes between the SDF and ISIL. There have also been reports of violent clashes between GoS forces and ISIL in the Al-Boleel desert on the west bank of the Euphrates, with notable GoS advances into southeastern areas of Deir-ez-Zor Governorate.

The situation in Dashisha in Al-Hasakeh Governorate along the Syria-Iraq border is of particular concern. Since the beginning of May there has been a significant escalation in hostilities between the SDF and ISIL in the area, with reports of mounting civilian casualties and a deteriorating humanitarian situation. On 3 June, an airstrike reportedly hit ISIL-held Thieb Haddaj village in south eastern rural Al-Hassakeh reportedly killing 8 people, including 2 children. This was reportedly followed by another airstrike that hit nearby Al-Jazaa village on the 4 June, reportedly killing at least 10 people and injuring many more, including women and children. There are also concerns for some 30,000 civilians who are reportedly trapped in ISIL-held areas in eastern rural Deir-ez-Zor Governorate following the recent ground advances made by the SDF. Basic commodities in this area are understood to be scarce, with people reportedly prevented from leaving the area due to extensive explosive hazard contamination carried out by ISIL. Food commodities are thought to be particularly scare, with ongoing hostilities and access restrictions by parties to the conflict preventing supplies of food from entering the area and resulting in significant levels of inflation.

So far, civilian displacements have been relatively limited, in part due to restrictions on freedom of movement and explosive hazard contamination. On 22 May, there were reports that some 216 civilians were displaced from Al Dashisha village in Markada sub-district, with a further 1,000 civilians reportedly displaced from areas of southern Al-Hasakeh on the 3 June. Hundreds of civilians were also reportedly displaced from Hajin town in mid-May due to armed clashes between ISIL and the SDF. Some of the displaced families are reported to have reached Al Arisha IDP site, while others are being hosted by relatives living in various villages surrounding the areas of hostilities. Further localized displacements or displacements to IDPs camps in Al-Hasakeh Governorate, particularly from the Dashisha area, are anticipated over the coming period. The Al Hole site management team are reportedly preparing for up to 10,000 arrivals to the camp.

Despite the risks posed by the reported presence of explosive hazards, more than 188,000 people are estimated to have returned to their places of origin in Deir-ez-Zor Governorate. Explosive hazard contamination continues to present a daily risk for thousands of children, women and men, with frequent reports of blast casualties and it has also reportedly led some IDP to go back to sites in Al-Hasakeh after having returned to their areas of previous residence. Without explosive hazard surveys no detailed information is currently available on the actual scope and scale of contamination in areas of return. Further efforts are needed to increase the level of awareness of local communities, IDPs and returnees through risk education campaigns, in addition to the conduct of systematic surveying, marking and removal of explosive hazards. Current humanitarian mine action interventions have increased coverage to Deir-ez-Zor Governorate and will be further strengthened.

The absence of fully operational public hospitals in Deir-ez-Zor Governorate has heightened the vulnerability of civilians seeking medical treatment. As of 9 June, 488 cases of acute bloody diarrhea in Deir-ez-Zor Governorate have been reported since 10 March due to consumption from contaminated water sources. On the 29 May, a oneand-a-half-year-old child from Harmushiyeh village reportedly died from acute bloody diarrhea following the consumption of untreated water from the Euphrates river. UN and NGO partners are working on scaling up their WASH response, access permitting, with an emphasis on disinfecting and chlorinating water sources in Zugier Jazera (where some 57 new cases and 2 deaths were reported during the first week of June) and other villages in the Euphrates valley. A programme to address this outbreak was initiated on 5 May, with a reported 41,677 chlorine tablets used to chlorinate 83,000 litres of water as of 22 May. Some 34,560 chlorine tablets have also reportedly been distributed to the Deir-ez-Zor and Ar-Raqqa Civil Councils to further support these response efforts. However, significant operational constraints continue to hamper the ability of humanitarian partners to reach people in need particularly in areas east of the Euphrates and along the Syria-Iraq border. These constraints include extensive explosive hazard contamination (and the lack of surveying/demarcation), the risk of ISIL infiltration making roads unsafe and the remoteness of these areas.

On 18 April, the Directorate of School Health reported a measles outbreak especially among school-aged children, with 162 suspected cases of measles reported during May in Ar-Raqqa Governorate in addition to 128 suspected cases from Deir-ez-Zor Governorate. A measles vaccination campaign was subsequently launched, with 277,383 children vaccinated in Deir-ez-Zor between 22 and 30 April, in addition to 194,460 children in Ar-Raqqa. During the same period, a reported 277,383 children were vaccinated for polio in Deir-ez-Zor in addition to 194,460 in Ar-Raqqa. In addition, 119 cases of leishmaniosis were reported in Ar-Raqqa and 318 cases in Deir-ez-Zor. These cases are in addition to 552 cases of leishmaniosis reported in Deir-ez-Zor between the 22 and 28 April, which has spread largely due to lack of healthcare and health actors.

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