Syria Crisis: Northeast Syria Situation Report No. 30 (1 November - 14 December 2018)[EN/AR]
- The United Nations (UN) and partners have significant concerns for the civilian population impacted by recent hostilities in south-east Deir-ez-Zor Governorate, with airstrikes reportedly contributing to significant civilian casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure.
- On the 1 December the SDF opened a security corridor which reportedly resulted in over 3,000 people, mostly women and children, fleeing the ISIL-held Hajin enclave. The UN is concerned by reports that some of the subsequent movements of these IDPs to Al Hole camp as well as the Abu Khashab informal settlement and Al Busrayiah transit site were reportedly not voluntary. These movements follow the displacement of an estimated 6,000 people from the ISIL-held Hajin enclave to surrounding areas between September and November.
- The UN in Syria strongly condemned the 29 November attack on a joint humanitarian mission in south-east Deir-ez-Zor Governorate which resulted in the shooting and wounding of a Syrian driver from a local NGO (see 30 November statement from UN in the Syrian Arab Republic). The UN calls on all parties to the conflict to uphold their responsibilities under International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law to take all possible measure to protect civilians, including aid workers. Following this incident humanitarian actors suspended their activities in the area.
- Despite improvements in access, reports of disruption to education provision in northeast Syria continued during the reporting period, with almost half of the 102,000 children enrolled in GoS schools in northeast Syria affected by deliberate obstructions preventing them from attending GoS schools. This includes some 10,000 children who have reportedly been unable to attend school since later September.
- Across northeast Syria there continue to be reports of insufficient winterization assistance among IDP populations. As of the end of November NGOs operating in northeast Syria reported a 39.7 per cent gap in required funding, leaving some 142,000 people targeted for winterization assistance not covered.
During the reporting period there have been increased reports of civilian casualties due to air-strikes and ground-based fighting in south-east Deir-ez-Zor Governorate. There are concerns for the estimated 6,000 people who remain in ISIL-controlled areas in the vicinity of Hajin, where hostilities have reportedly been concentrated. Unconfirmed reports indicate that airstrikes have contributed to numerous civilian deaths, including of children. Civilians remaining in areas under ISIL-control are also exposed to high-levels of deprivation. During the reporting period critical gaps in food and medical supplies were reported, with the price of flour in Al Shafa town allegedly reaching as high as 6,000 SYP, almost sixty times higher than in neighboring SDF areas. Recently displaced people arriving in SDF-held areas have allegedly reported a dire situation in ISIL-controlled areas with extensive infrastructure damage- including to the main hospital which is reportedly destroyed- as well as lack of food and basic services. People in the Hajin enclave have reportedly been relying on food stockpiled by ISIL.
As of July 2018, an estimated 25,000-30,000 people resided in the ISIL-controlled Hajin enclave. An estimated 10,000-12,000 of these people fled the enclave between July and August. Since 11 September the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), with the support of the International Coalition Forces (ICF), have scaled up their military operations as part of an effort to clear ISIL from its last strongholds in Syria. Between September and the end of November an estimated 6,000 people were displaced from the Hajin enclave to a number of informal IDP makeshift settlements in the area.
On 1 December, the SDF reportedly established a security corridor linking ISIL-controlled areas. In the first 12 days of December over 3,000 people, mostly women and children, reportedly left through this corridor. However, reports of restrictions on the freedom of movement of civilians living in the Hajin enclave persist, with ISIL reportedly obstructing civilians from leaving the enclave. There have been reports of civilians paying smugglers extremely high fees to transport them to SDF areas. Of the more than 3,000 people who have exited the ISIL-held Hajin enclave to SDF areas between the 1 and 12 December, 2,800 have arrived at the Al Hole camp and 500 to the Abu Khashab informal settlement. Many of these people transited through the Al Busrayiah transit site.
IDPs displaced from Hajin over previous months continue to be dispersed across the surrounding areas, living in informal settlements/ makeshift camps, more formal IDP sites in Gharanij and amongst the host community. Overall there are an estimated 15 informal settlements hosting IDPs, with the main sites located in the Gharanij and Bahra areas. Reports from the field continue to indicate that there are serious barriers to civilian movement in communities in Hajin and neighboring sub-districts of Sur, Basira, Thiban, and Susat, with women and girls reportedly most affected by the obstacles to basic services such as health, water and sanitation. Amidst limited humanitarian access to affected areas, the situation of these IDPs reportedly remains dire.
Across SDF-controlled areas of northeast Syria there are an estimated 35,800 people living in IDP/ refugee sites as of the end of November 2018, of whom some 26,650 are IDPs. This represents a slight increase in the estimated IDP population from the previous month. While returns continue to occur towards Ar-Raqqa and Deir-ez-Zor from all sites, new arrivals during the month have largely come from Deir-ez-Zor. Since November 2017 some 18,178 refugees have returned to Iraq with further movements anticipated.
There continue to be significant concerns for the situation of IDPs, many of whom are reportedly not adequately equipped for winter. Heavy rains during the reporting period allegedly caused damage and destruction of shelters in several locations. In an IDP site near Al-Jayef village in western rural Ar-Raqqa heavy rains on 14 November damaged at least 13 tents, with the camp administration highlighting a lack of winter preparedness in the camp.
Similarly, further heavy rains on the 29 November reportedly resulted in damage/destruction of roughly 30 tents in makeshift camps across northern and western rural Ar-Raqqa Governorate. Heavy rains throughout the end of November caused flooding in parts of Areesha camp, which could potentially affect 9,000 IDPs (there is continued resistance from the camp population and administration around a possible relocation to the Al Hole or Mabrouka camps).
Against this backdrop, there continue to be significant funding gaps for the winterization response in northeast Syria. According to the Whole of Syria Shelter/NFI sector, as of 26 November international NGOs responding in northeast Syria were facing a US$4.75 million funding gap for their winterization plan, and part of the overall US$19 million funding gap for the Syria hub is also likely to affect activities in northeast Syria. The INGO funding gap alone would likely leave approximately 142,000 of the 568,000-people targeted under the overall plan not covered with winterization assistance.
There continues to be an urgent and immediate need to scale up winter aid distribution (including sleeping bags, thermal blankets, winter clothes, plastic sheeting, winter NFI kits, heaters, stoves and fuel), particularly given the large number of IDPs living in inadequate shelters in IDP sites (including informal settlements and unfinished buildings) which are unable to withstand the harsh winter conditions. Of the most commonly reported NFI needs, a majority were for winter items, alongside light and energy sources. Rental prices have also been reported to be rising across Ar-Raqqa Governorate, presenting further challenges in accessing sufficient shelter during the winter. Across locations key informants have also reported limited access to electricity, with a reliance on expensive private generators potentially limiting access particularly for low-income households.
During November, thousands of children across northeast Syria reportedly continued to face barriers to accessing education. The Kurdish Self Administration (KSA) issued a decree in September preventing children from accessing GoS schools (teaching the national curriculum). As of the end of the November approximately half of the 102,000 children in northeast Syria enrolled in some 360 GoS schools (41 per cent of school age children in northeast Syria) reportedly faced obstructions to attending including an estimated 10,000 children who have not been able to attend school since later September. Humanitarian partners engaged with authorities, resulting in some improvements with the school attendance rate increasing. Recent assessments indicate, however, that 10 per cent of students in Hassakeh city and 23 per cent of students in Qamishli still do not regularly access education. Attendance rates remain erratic, with continued frequent reports of challenges in crossing checkpoints. These restrictions were particularly burdensome around Qamishli, with the KSA establishing road checkpoints that continue in some cases to prevent children from accessing their schools. The situation in Hassakeh city has reportedly improved since the end of November, with only one remaining checkpoint restricting access. In northeast Syria education continues to be reported as a significant gap, with reports that secondary education is almost non-existent across large swathes of Ar-Raqqa and Deir-ez-Zor governorates. There is a widespread need for the restoration and rehabilitation of schools, many of which have been damaged due to hostilities. The military use of schools also continues to be reported as a barrier to education in northeast Syria, particularly in areas around south-east Deir-ez-Zor.
There were no new infectious disease outbreaks confirmed for northeast Syria in November. Caseloads in previously reported outbreaks have generally declined. The acute bloody diarrhea outbreak in Deir-ez-Zor Governorate has been contained, but continued water treatment is required to ensure that the situation remains under control. Between 1-30 November a total of 845 new cases of acute bloody diarrhea (ABD) were reported through the consolidated EWARS and EWARN surveillance sites, of which 171 were reported in Ar-Raqqa Governorate, 410 in Al-Hasakeh Governorate and 264 in Deir-ez-Zor Governorate. The number of new cases recorded continues to show an overall decline. Similarly, over the last month the number of new typhoid cases reported across the three governorates has also reduced, from approximately 3,430 in October to 2,595 in November. Nonetheless, in view of heavy rains reported over the last month resulting in flooding in some IDP sites, there exists an increased risk of outbreaks of water-borne diseases including typhoid and acute bloody diarrhea. As previously reported, conditions across many IDP sites are already dire. During November, local reports highlighted a challenging situation in the Jazra Abu Hameed IDP camp located in Al-Kasra district in northeast Deir-ez-Zor, where scores of children are reportedly suffering from acute bloody diarrhea and infectious diseases. According to the camp administration, some 3,500 people (700 families) have not received any assistance for three months.
On 18 April, the Directorate of School Health reported a measles outbreak particularly affecting school-aged children However, following several vaccination campaigns conducted across all governorates, the overall prevalence of new measles cases has declined sharply since a peak in May, and caseloads are currently at the lowest level recorded this year.
The number of cases of leishmaniasis has experienced an upsurge in November, although numbers remain lower as compared to the start of the year. In January 2018 approximately 1,700 new cases of leishmaniasis were reported on average each week across all three governorates. By October this had decreased to approximately 500 new cases. During November, however, caseloads increased to an average of 1,135 new cases on average per week, 70 per cent of which were reported in Deir-ez-Zor Governorate, marking a dramatic increase in cases since October. Leishmaniasis has largely spread due to a lack of healthcare and health actors operating in affected areas.