Syria

Syria: Flash Update - Foah and Kafraya – 31 January 2016

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Situation Report
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Highlights

  • An estimated 12,500 people are besieged in the villages of Foah and Kafraya, Idleb Governorate.

  • Residents have faced a deterioration of the humanitarian situation over the last months, particularly with regards to access to food, water and medical care.

  • The United Nations, ICRC and SARC delivered assistance to the enclave in October 2015, and on three occasions in January 2016.

Situation Overview

The estimated population of the two villages of Foah and Kafraya in Idleb Governorate is 12,500 people. NonState Armed Groups (NSAGs) and the Al Nusra Front (ANF) have surrounded the Government of Syria (GOS) controlled villages since April 2015, imposing increasingly harder restrictions on humanitarian access, commercial traffic and freedom of movement for the people of the enclave. GoS was able to airdrop limited supplies from April to September 2015, when the Four Town agreement came into effect. The United Nations officially declared Foah and Kafraya as besieged in October 2015.

Humanitarian Situation

There are increasing reports of acute shortages of food, basic commodities, medical items and fuel in the enclave. While the existence of agricultural lands has initially helped mitigate the impact of the siege on food security, a lack of fuel and fertilizers have made cultivation of agricultural lands increasingly difficult. In addition, local sources report that up to 70 per cent of the farmland is now inaccessible due to security concerns (snipers) and that thousands of acres of wheat and barley have reportedly been burned in shell attacks on the fields. As a result, the prices of food and other basic staples have increased sharply. Sugar, for example, now costs almost 20 times of what it costs in Damascus. The two bakeries in the villages have closed down due to a lack of flower, yeast, and fuel; instead families have to make bread at home.

For water supply, residents are depending on water from untreated wells, sold at high cost. However, water availability is dependent on the availability of diesel to operate the water pumps. Families can register with the local Civil Committee to receive water through tankers, although the cost is high (40,000 SYP for 4-5m2 ). Reportedly the water reservoir of Foah city was hit, resulting in aggravated water shortages. Lack of fuel has forced residents to rely increasingly on firewood, the cost of which has reportedly greatly increased (60,000 SYP per MT). Additionally, olive trees and other fruit-bearing trees were reportedly cut down to serve as fire wood. Water, electricity and fuel shortages have led to poor hygiene and sanitation conditions, putting the community at risk of water borne diseases.

The only hospital in the enclave reportedly stopped operating due to lack of medical supplies, medical equipment, diesel and electricity cuts. There is one simple field hospital remaining which is operated by only three physicians. The hospital does not encompass all specializations.

Local sources report that shelling and fighting has led to extensive damage to many houses and properties. There are two schools open in Foah and three schools in Kafraya providing basic learning opportunitiesto children.

All schoolslack curriculum books and stationary, and the school buildings are reportedly damaged, and some have been converted to shelters for IDPs. 1,500 school students and 400 university students were allegedly unable to sit their examinations, and an undisclosed number of university graduates were unable to take up or seek new jobs as a result of the siege.

Means of communication, such as the phone center and communication towers, have reportedly been destroyed, resulting in the difficulties for residents to communicate with the outside world.

Landmines have reportedly been laid around the enclave, but no casualty has been reported to date. Increased sniping activity has been reported in the second half of January, further constraining the movements of civilians.
Sixty-five per cent of those living in the besieged villages are reportedly women and children.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.