Syria Crisis: Northeast Syria Situation Report No. 31 (15 December 2018 – 31 March 2019) [EN/AR]
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 Protection Section is attributed to the Protection Sector (Syria, NES cross-border and WoS). The situation overview covers the period from 15 December 2018 – 31 March 2019. The next report will be issued on or around 31 May.
Mass displacement from Hajin, Deir-ez-Zor Governorate: Between 4 December 2018 and 31 March 2019, more than 63,000 people were displaced from ISIL-held areas in southeastern Deir-ez-Zor Governorate and were transferred to Al Hol camp in Al Hassakeh Governorate following intense airstrikes and ground hostilities in the area. By the end of March, the influx of people to Al Hol had reduced significantly. Civilian casualties and large-scale destruction of civilian infrastructure, as well as critical shortages of food, clean water and medicines, were reported by people fleeing areas of hostilities. An estimated 20,000 – 25,000 displaced people reportedly spontaneously returned to the Hajin area during January, according to REACH. The UN, Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and NGOs provided humanitarian assistance for nearly 80,000 people in southeast Deir-ez-Zor during January and February, however a much bigger response is needed as soon as the security situation allows; the risk posed by explosive hazard contamination also affects the ability of humanitarian actors to scale up the response.
Humanitarian organisations mobilize large-scale response at Al Hol camp: To respond to the large and sudden influx of people in Al Hol camp, which saw its population increase more than seven-fold since December 2018, the UN and humanitarian partners have mobilized a large-scale response. Food, shelter, NFIs, WASH, hygiene items, dignity kits and critical medical and protection services were provided to the new arrivals. Despite the comprehensive 24/7 response, conditions at Al Hol remain difficult as the site has by far surpassed its maximum capacity, with humanitarian actors working on expanding the camp’s capacity to host the influx of newly displaced and to expand essential services. However, additional financial resources are urgently needed to sustain and scale up response, as well as improved capacity in specialized areas (e.g. health and protection).
Large-scale flooding at Areesha camp: Above average rainfall has led to severe flooding in Areesha camp in Al-Hasakeh Governorate since late December 2018. In total, 75 per cent of the approx. 9,200 people staying at the site have been affected, with close to 1,000 families (approx. 5,000 people) having had to move to an extension site outside the camp into makeshift shelters. While humanitarian organisations and local authorities are responding at the camp, the situation in the new part of the site remains precarious with inadequate shelters, water and sanitation facilities, education and other essential support. Areesha camp is located in a flood prone area; however, families have indicated a strong preference to remain in close proximity to the existing site. The UN and partners have identified a possible solution, pending a viability survey of the site, encompassing the current extension site and another plot opposite the current camp.
Inter-agency convoy to Menbij: On 7 March, the UN and SARC completed an interagency convoy delivering humanitarian assistance to meet the urgent needs of 50,000 people in Menbij and surrounding areas in northeast Aleppo Governorate. This was the first time the UN was able to deliver assistance through Aleppo, complementing efforts by NGOs operating via cross-border response.
633,429 people reached on average with food baskets and emergency food rations in Ar-Raqqa, Aleppo, AlHasakeh and Deir-ez-Zor governorates during Dec 2018, Jan & Feb 2019.
1,320,692 people reached with improved access to life-saving/ emergency WASH facilities and services in Ar-Raqqa, Al-Hasakeh and Deir-ez-Zor governorates in February 2018.
10,653 family tents set up in Al Hol camp between December 2018 and end March 2019
Hostilities in Deir-ez-Zor displace tens of thousands to Al Hol camp
Since November 2018, hostilities in the ISIL-held areas of Hajin in south-eastern Deir-ez-Zor have further intensified, with reports of civilians killed and injured. Civilians fleeing hostilities reported critical shortages of food and medical supplies, and large-scale destruction of civilian infrastructure. Since 4 December 2018, more than 63,000 people have fled the Hajin area and were transferred to Al Hol camp in Al Hassakeh Governorate, with the total camp population exceeding 73,000 by the end of March. Approximately 10,000 people were staying at Al Hol camp prior to December 2018. This population was primarily comprised of Iraqi refugees and a smaller number of IDPs from areas of southeast Deir-ez-Zor, who had arrived at the site between September and November 2018.
More than 90 per cent of the new arrivals to Al Hol are women and children, with more than 25 per cent estimated to be children under five and some 50 per cent children under 12, while an estimated 8 per cent are pregnant or nursing mothers; many of them under 18-years-of-age.The absence of men and adolescent boys – as young as 15-years-old – has triggered concerns of separation and detention upon exit from Al Baghouz or at screening points during transit, with no information provided to the families on their whereabouts. This represents specific protection concerns and challenges. The provision of interim care services and identification, documentation, family tracing and reunification remains a priority - the number of unaccompanied children exceeds the capacity of interim care arrangements at the camp. Psychological first aid has also been required as new arrivals show signs of exhaustion and distress. Equally, the provision of information on available services is essential to facilitate prompt access to life-saving assistance, in a non-discriminatory and equitable way.
The rapid expansion of the camp due to the unplanned and often unannounced transfer of people created frequent situations of overcrowding in reception areas, with displaced people sometimes compelled to sleep in the open for the lack of emergency shelter. While people have since been moved from reception areas, more than 19,000 people remained in big size tents, rub halls and communal spaces as of the end of March. The fragile health of many of the new arrivals also presented grave health concerns, with 269 children severely malnourished children admitted to the stabilization center of Al-Hikma private hospital as of 15 March. Further, more than 150 children had been treated for diarrhea as of 28 February. The high number of patients referred to hospitals represents an additional challenge as there are limited hospitals and health facilities available in the area. Throughout most of the reporting period there has also been an urgent need for shelter and available land to expand and host the new arrivals. There is also a pressing need to scale up more specialized protection services, as well as to continue to increase water and sanitation at the camp. As of end-March 2019, the total number of school-aged children in Al Hol was approximately 26,000, the majority of whom have been without any education opportunities for at least five years.
Of the camp population, 43 per cent are Syrian IDPs, 42 per cent are Iraqi nationals and 15 per cent are other third country nationals. Access to third country nationals who are hosted in a dedicated annex to the camp is regulated by camp authorities, limiting some humanitarian services, which has particularly affected medical teams, with language barriers also affecting people’s ability to access services. There is an urgent need for sustained medical presence given the level of needs, as well as to improve information sharing on detained family members with people at the annex.