Syrian Arab Republic: Afrin, Flash Update No. 2 (as of 29 March 2018) [EN/AR]
137,070 people have been displaced from Afrin district
50,000 beneficiaries to be reached with supplies from the UN/ SARC inter-agency convoy to Tall Refaat
60,000 individuals benefitted from water trucking services and hygiene kits
$73m in additional funding required by the UN and partners in Syria to assist those affected
Military confrontations in the Afrin district of Aleppo governorate since 20 January have displaced an estimated 137,070 people (new and revised number) to the Tall Refaat area, Nabul and Zahraa, Fafin, and surrounding villages. The needs for humanitarian assistance amidst the displaced population are staggering, with the majority relying on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic survival needs.
Movement restrictions for IDPs to Aleppo city prevent many from seeking alternative housing arrangements and for the sick and injured from rapidly accessing specialized medical care.
On 25 March 2018, a UN/SARC inter-agency convoy delivered food, nutrition, NFIs, health and WASH assistance sufficient for 50,000 people in need in Tall Refaat. A UN cross-border shipment is being prepared to cross from Turkey to Afrin between 02 and 06 April. The convoy will contain NFIs, clothing kits, reproductive and dignity kits and food for the affected population in Afrin district.
The UN and partners in Damascus are facing a $73m funding gap to respond with life-saving assistance and protection services to all those displaced from Afrin district and are urgently appealing for additional funding.
Following a prolonged period of military operations in the Afrin district of Aleppo governorate since 20 January 2018, some 137,070 individuals from Afrin district are estimated to have been displaced to Tall Refaat, Nabul, Zahraa and surrounding villages, and to Kafr Naseh and Fafin, east of the Tall Refaat area. Some 50,000 – 70,000 individuals are believed to remain inside Afrin city. Previous displacement estimates have recently been revised downwards following assessments carried out in the area by the UN and partner organizations. The majority of IDPs (90,250 individuals) are currently located in Tall Refaat and ten other villages, while 20,000 individuals are in Nabul, 10,000 in Zahraa and 15,000 in Kafr Naseh and Fafin. However, with registration efforts progressing slowly, these new numbers remain estimates and are subject to change. According to partners on the ground, the number of displaced individuals appears to be stabilizing, however, any further hostilities in Tall Refaat could trigger a possible secondary displacement towards Menbij and Al Hassekeh. Small scale onward movement from Tall Refaat area to Menbij (1,000 individuals) and Al-Hassakeh governorate (820 individuals) has already been noted.
Most of the displaced individuals in Tall Refaat are staying in abandoned houses, often with several families to a room. Some families stay in mosques and schools, while other IDPs are sheltering in the open. IDPs in Nabul and Zahraa are either staying in collective shelters, such as mosques and private halls or are renting houses. Given the strain on services in these two locations, the authorities are closing the collective shelters and plan to move the IDPs to Tall Refaat, a decision which will eventually impact some 4,000 IDPs. To date, three out of 19 collective shelters have been closed and some 500 IDPs were moved to the Tall Refaat area.
The lack of freedom of movement for IDPs is a major concern, as many are not permitted to proceed to Aleppo city, where many have relatives or houses, and where there is greater capacity for the humanitarian community to assist them with shelter.
There is a particular concern for the sick and injured amidst the displaced population as the only available hospital, in Zahraa, lacks the capacity to address all medical needs as it has only twelve beds. A mechanism has been put in place for the medical evacuation of emergency cases to Aleppo city; however, it can take up to 20 days to obtain approval for the medical evacuation of critical patients. On 28 March, 60 medical cases were evacuated to Aleppo city following a prolonged waiting period.
There are also reports of IDPs being prevented from returning to Afrin, despite some IDPs expressing willingness to go back if the conditions are conducive. The United Nations appeals to the concerned authorities to ensure all IDPs enjoy the right to freedom of movement, whether to seek safety, shelter, medical treatment or to return to their homes.
The majority of IDPs in the Tall Refaat area rely on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic survival needs. Local markets are starting to function, with commodities available; however, prices are approximately 20 per cent higher than in Aleppo city.
Many IDPs are unable to afford such prices due to a lack of gainful employment opportunities and depleted savings. Regular humanitarian access and deliveries to the IDPs are therefore urgently required to assist the displaced population.
Information on the humanitarian situation in Afrin city is scarce as access is currently limited. However, information has been received that water shortages in the city continue to be a concern following the destruction of a water pumping station in Jandairis sub-district, and the change in control of the Midanki Dam, north-east of Afrin city. A humanitarian organization indicated that three out of the four water pumping stations in the district have been repaired, while the fourth one (located around the Midanki Dam) is in the process of being repaired. The restoration of potable water through the network remains a major priority to ensure civilians residing in the city have sufficient access to safe water and are not at the risk of contracting waterborne diseases. Out of the district’s 17 bakeries, only two located in Afrin city are currently functioning. Some of these bakeries have been unaffected by the fighting but are closed as their owners and workers displaced to other locations. Three health facilities (two hospitals and one primary health clinic) are operational in Afrin city. Medical facilities in the rural areas of Afrin remain closed, and reports indicate that the majority of the city’s medical staff were amongst the displaced. Referral of medical cases to medical facilities in Jarablus, A’zaz and Turkey is taking place depending on the severity of each case. All education services are currently on hold. Damage to shelter is reportedly low, however, reports indicate the presence of explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices, which have so far caused a number of casualties among civilians.
From a protection standpoint, the situation in Afrin district remains worrying. Anecdotal information indicates that incidents of looting, confiscation of property and threats of violence against civilians are happening but on a smaller scale than what was initially reported on 18 March.
On 28 March, Turkish and Syrian media reported that Turkey decided to open a new crossing to Afrin district in the village of Hamam village in the western part of the district. The village is located on the main road, which reaches major towns such as Jandairis and Afrin city. It is expected that this border crossing will be used by Turkish organizations, although the capacity of the crossing is believed to be low.
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.