Syrian Arab Republic: Afrin Crisis, Situation Report No. 2 (as of 16 April 2018)

Situation Report
Originally published


137,070 people remain displaced from Afrin district to other locations in Aleppo governorate and Al-Hassakeh

396,000+ non-food items distributed to internally displaced people

31,350 ready-to-eat rations and canned food rations provided to IDPs

$73m in funding required by the UN and partners in Syria to assist those affected by the Afrin crisis

• An estimated 137,070 individuals remain displaced from Afrin district to the Tall Refaat, Nabul, Zahraa and Fafin areas as a result of military operations in Afrin that began on 20 January. At the same time, it is estimated that as many as 50,000 people remain in Afrin city and an additional 100,000 in rural Afrin.

  • The UN currently has no direct regular access to Afrin district while humanitarian partners active in the area continue to face access challenges when attempting to reach the population in need, largely due to movement restrictions enforced by actors on the ground.

  • Restrictions on IDP movement continue to be applied by several parties to the conflict, preventing the internally displaced population from seeking safety in their areas of choice or to return to their areas of origin. The UN has received reports of groups of IDPs being stuck in-between checkpoints for days without access to regular humanitarian assistance in their attempt to return to Afrin district.

  • The UN and partners in Damascus require at least $73m in order to continue responding with life-saving assistance and protection services to those displaced from Afrin district to Nabul, Zahraa, Tall Refaat, Fafin and surrounding communities.

Situational Overview

An estimated 137,070 individuals remain displaced from Afrin district to the Tall Refaat, Nabul, Zahraa and Fafin areas due to military operations in Afrin that began on 20 January. Currently, only limited information is available on the humanitarian situation inside Afrin district, where an estimated 150,000 people remain, including 50,000 in Afrin city.

Movement restrictions imposed on the IDPs continue to prevent the vulnerable population from accessing safety and services in Aleppo city or to return to their homes in Afrin district. A limited numbers of families managed to return to Afrin district via informal roads, some of which are reportedly contaminated with explosive hazards. The recent closure of crossing points previously used by returnees will further restrict limited informal returns. Reports were received from multiple sources that groups of IDPs attempting to return to Afrin were stuck at the crossing point between Burj Elqas and Kimar for nine days, with only very limited access to food assistance, and no water and health support, which particularly affected older persons and pregnant women. IDPs were not allowed to proceed to Afrin or return to Tall Refaat and were reportedly exposed to the elements, including heavy winds and rains, with no protection but their vehicles; unconfirmed reports were received that at least two IDPs died and that a woman gave birth without any access to medical assistance. After numerous days, some IDPs were able to leave the area through informal routes, reportedly contaminated with explosive hazards, and others managed to return to Tall Refaat. Those who remained stuck in the area were reportedly permitted to move into Afrin district on 14 April before the Kimar checkpoint was again closed, this time allegedly permanently.

It is imperative that all parties in effective control of displacement areas and of Afrin district adhere to basic principles of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Human Rights Law (IHRL). This includes facilitating the freedom of movement of IDPs to seek safety and choose their areas of destination and settlement, and the right for IDPs to return to their places of origin in safety and without any fear of reprisal or discrimination.

Inside Afrin district, a deconfliction mechanism has been put in place to ensure the safety of humanitarian actors operating there, however, access to Afrin remains challenging. At the time of writing, the UN does not have direct regular access to the district. Some NGOs are able to access the western parts of Afrin (mainly the Jandairis sub-district) from Idleb governorate, while others reported to face challenges in accessing Afrin from Azaz sub-district, due to restrictions on movement enforced by actors on the ground. Within the district, most checkpoints are facilitating movement of NGO teams. However, in some cases local partners reported to be prevented from moving freely inside the district at selected checkpoints. The provision of medical assistance by cross-border organizations is reported to be gradually increasing, with at least three NGOs providing medical services in the district. The Gaziantep-based Shelter and NFI Cluster reported that nine of their partners currently have access to the district. However, fluid population movement, either of IDPs returning to their homes, or people moving to areas where services are available, forces humanitarian partners to reconfigure their planned response on a nearly daily basis.

Internet connection and mobile network services remain unavailable in many areas of Afrin, further complicating humanitarian organizations’ efforts to understand needs on the ground. As per the limited information received, the water provision in Afrin city has improved significantly with now 90 per cent of the population enjoying access to water supply, after nearly a month of suspension. A needs assessment of a partner organization on the ground showed that some 50 per cent of residents of Afrin surveyed were facing challenges to access food on a regular basis, and that only an estimated 25 per cent of the population had access to adequate housing conditions with regards to space, and availability of WASH facilities. Protection is a key concern, with reports received of explosive hazard-related deaths and injuries, and of occupation of houses and looting, with little to no protection services available.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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