Syria

Syria mVAM Bulletin #58: August 2021

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Assessment
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Situation Overview

  • COVID-19 cases continued to surge across Syria. As of 31 August 2021, a total of 27,915 COVID-19 cases, including 2,013 fatalities, were confirmed by the Minister of Health in government-controlled areas. The monthly increase in COVID-19 cases in August (1,952 cases) signals an upward trend compared to July 2021 (488 cases) and represents the highest monthly caseload since May 2021. In August 2021, around 20,611 COVID-19 cases were reported across northeast Syria, an increase of 1,960 new cases compared to the previous month, representing the second highest monthly caseload since December 2020. In opposition-held areas in northwest Syria, the epidemiological situation has significantly deteriorated. Approximately 39,271 COVID-19 cases were reported in northwest Syria by the end of August, an increase of 12,839 new cases compared to the previous month, representing the highest monthly caseload since the start of the pandemic. Simultaneously, as of 23 August 2021, around 218,900 people were vaccinated in government-controlled areas including in northeast Syria, in addition to 58,000 people in northwest Syria. This coverage reflects less than one percent of Syria’s population. On 15 August, a second batch of COVAX vaccines arrived in Syria, about 138,000 jabs for government-controlled areas including in northeast Syria, and 36,000 for northwest Syria.

  • The general security situation throughout Syria remained volatile in August. Intensified hostilities were reported in northwest Syria, with shelling largely concentrated in southern Idleb, northern Latakia and Aleppo, and western Hama. As of July 2021, 1.7 million internally displaced people (IDP) were reported in IDP sites across northwest Syria, with 80 percent of these IDPs being women and children. Furthermore, in Dar’a governorate in southern Syria, the security situation was tense with artillery shelling and ground clashes reported during most of August, in particular in the town of Dar’a Al Balad, resulting in civilian casualties and displacement of more than 38,600 people as of 17 August. The displaced people included around 15,000 women, over 3,200 men and elderly, and over 20,400 children. Most IDPs were hosted by relatives in Dar’a city, however, around 1,500 IDPs were accommodated in seven collective shelters. Moreover, Saraya crossing point, a humanitarian corridor between Dar’a Al Balad and Dar’a city, has been closed since 12 August, while between 21 and 22 August, it was temporarily opened to allow women, children and the elderly to exit. As a result, access to services and goods across Dar’a Al Balad was extremely challenging in August, with critical shortages of electricity, fuel and bread, as well as the inability to deliver wheat flour to Tishreen and Al Balad bakeries. In response, Dar’a authorities have reallocated this wheat flour to existing bakeries in Dar’a city, Bosra Esh Sham, Tiba, and Da'el to help meet the needs of IDPs. On 30 August, Al Shifa hospital and the National hospital of Dar’a were reportedly attacked by mortars, resulting in structural damage. On 31 August, the Government of Syria and the Dar’a Central Committee held a meeting and agreed to a complete ceasefire to take effect from September 2021 in Dar’a Al-Balad.

  • On 7 August, Damascus governorate issued a decision to stipulate specific opening and closing times for all commercial markets, shops, restaurants, and various economic activities in the governorate, aiming to save energy to be redirected to residential users. On 16 August, the Syrian Ministry of Economy and Foreign Trade issued a six-month ban on the import of specific commodities as part of a trade rationalization scheme to protect available foreign exchange reserves. This initiative could reduce import expenditures, and therefore save foreign reserves for essential imports, especially wheat flour. On 23 August, a leak from a fuel tank at the Baniyas power plant in Tartous discharged as much as 12,000 cubic meters of oil into the Mediterranean Sea. The World Wildlife Fund organization was deeply concerned about this incident, which could have immediate and long-term effects on coastal ecosystems and vulnerable communities in the area.

• In August 2021, WFP delivered general food assistance to approximately 4.7 million people across Syria in order to meet the immense humanitarian needs nationwide. Moreover, WFP dispatched 1,500 ready-to-eat rations to IDPs in Dar’a city, and an additional 5,160 rations for about 25,800 IDPs are planned to be distributed to address the dire humanitarian situation in Dar'a.