Syria: Situation Report 2: Recent Developments in Northwestern Syria (as of 17 May 2019)
• Ongoing conflict in northwest Syria is impacting civilians, civilian infrastructure and service provision in northern Hama and southern Idleb governorates, as well as the countryside of Aleppo.
• Approximately 180,000 people were displaced between 29 April and 9 May, while 18 health facilities, many schools, three IDP settlements and one refugee camp were reportedly affected due to hostilities.
• Response is ongoing with tens of thousands of people being provided food, protection, nutrition, health, shelter, education and WASH services, while critical gaps remain, particularly in shelter assistance.
180,000 Individuals recently displaced
85,000 Individuals in need of NFI assistance
83,000 Individuals outside camps
97,000 Individuals in camps and reception centres
45,000 School-aged children are in need of immediate education support
250,000 School-aged children affected by the recent conflict
Ongoing violence and hostilities continue to exact a heavy toll on civilians, civilian infrastructure and service provision in northern Hama and southern Idleb governorates, as well as the western countryside of Aleppo governorate. Since the publication of the last Situation Report on the recent developments in northwest Syria on 9 May, ongoing conflict in northwest Syria between Government of Syria (GoS) forces and its allies and non-state armed groups (NSAGs) has continued. While information is difficult to verify, unconfirmed reports indicate that more than 170 civilians, including at least 15 women and 20 children, have been killed, while many others have been injured.
Between 29 April and 9 May, approximately 180,000 individuals fled the fighting. Some 164,000 people fled to northern and eastern Idleb Governorate and around 16,000 people to northern and western Aleppo. About 97,000 individuals are in camps and reception centres while about 83,000 are outside camps. Since 13 May, thousands more are reportedly displaced, and further information on their displacement is being compiled.
The number of displacements, as a result of the situation in northwest Syria from 1 February to date, exceeded 300,000. A large influx of people displaced into areas with high levels of existing IDPs creates the danger of overwhelming already overstretched services. The shelter availability online map - updated by cluster membersindicate that the current available capacity can only host approximately 26,000 individuals.
Reports suggest many communities have been abandoned as residents seek safety. At the same time, some residents have stayed behind, including female-headed households, elderly and others with limited ability to move, exacerbating their vulnerability. Many of those who stayed behind are dependent on humanitarian services for their daily needs. The potential longer-term impact on the civilian population may be compounded as the violence is occurring during the harvest season, disrupting the normal food production cycle and potentially reducing food security for months to come.
The latest violence compounds an already fragile humanitarian situation. In the de-escalation area of Idleb alone, there are an estimated 3 million people, including 1.3 million internally displaced people (IDPs). Many of the population affected have been displaced in the past, some multiple times. As such, their ability to cope is reduced or compromised. The areas that recently displaced people are moving towards are already densely populated, often with camps at full or excess capacity, putting additional strain on services. Of particular note, approximately 130,000 newly displaced individuals have moved to camps in Dana sub-district in Idleb Governorate, placing additional strain on available services, including the host communities. Reports indicate that rents have increased fivefold - where housing is available – since 1 May. Similarly, anecdotal reports suggest the price of a family tent has increased eightfold over the same period. The need for shelter is critical as many cannot be accommodated by the available space in reception centers and camps.
Impact on civilians, civilian infrastructure and humanitarian activities
The latest upsurge in violence has a serious impact on critical civilian infrastructure, including hospitals and schools.
Since 28 April, a total of 18 health facilities have come under attack, including eleven in Hama Governorate, six in Idleb and one in Aleppo Governorate as well as one ambulance. Two of the health facilities were struck twice. Due to the escalation of conflict, 49 health facilities have partially or completely suspended activities. These facilities provided over 171,000 medical outpatient consultations, over 2,760 major surgeries and supported 1,424 newborn deliveries on monthly.
Many schools have been reportedly damaged or destroyed as a result of airstrikes and shelling since 30 April. As of 17 May, 45,000 school-aged children are in immediate need of education services. The capacity of education services in camps and in receiving host communities will be stretched due to the increased number of children in need of support. The exams of at least 400,000 students were postponed due to the violence. Three members of the protection cluster providing protection services reported direct impact and damage to their facilities (two women and girls safe spaces and one child friendly space) from airstrikes and shelling in Madiq Castle, Ehsem and Heish subdistricts.
Since the beginning of the ongoing escalation, three IDP settlements have been affected by hostilities in northern Hama and southern Idleb. Most recently, a densely-populated camp for Palestinian refugees in western Aleppo governorate was affected. Neirab refugee camp was hit on 14 May as families gathered to break their fasts at the Ramadan iftar meal. At least ten civilians, including four children, were killed while schools and health centers suspended services in the area.
The impact of the recent increase in conflict on the civilian population, civilian infrastructure and the provision of basic services is deeply worrying. Many humanitarian responders have been forced to suspend their activities in the conflict area. This will negatively impact on civilian population’s ability to cope at a time when needs are increasing. Some organizations suspended activities as their premises were damaged, destroyed or rendered unsafe by the violence.
Others have suspended activities in to keep their staff and beneficiaries safe, or because the beneficiary population, as well as the service providers are displaced. As of 17 May, partners operating in the conflict areas have suspended at least 48 programmes which provide food, nutrition, education, health, and humanitarian protection services to people. Five humanitarian workers, including two health professionals, have reportedly been killed due to airstrikes and shelling.