Syrian Arab Republic: Recent Developments in Northwestern Syria Situation Report No. 8 - as of 26 July 2019
Violence in northwest Syria continues unabated, which is taking a heavy toll on the three million civilians who live in the area. Since the end of April, hundreds of civilians are killed by airstrikes and shelling, while many more have been injured.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been forced to flee their homes to escape the violence. The majority of those who are displaced are moving to densely-populated areas where humanitarian assistance is over-stretched.
Widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure, such as homes, bakeries, markets, hospitals, schools and water stations, add to the suffering of civilians in northwest Syria and further complicates the provision of humanitarian assistance.
Humanitarian response is ongoing with hundreds of thousands of people receiving critical assistance essential for their survival while additional funding is required to continue supporting all people in need across northwest Syria.
3 million people in northwest Syria
51% are children
25% are women
452,623 Displacements between 1 May and 14 July
925,000 People reached with food assistance from 1 to 24 July
100,000 School-aged children in immediate need of education services
$14.4 million In additional funding required to provide SNFI support to IDPs
Violence continues unabated in northwest Syria, taking a heavy toll on the three million people who are living in the Idleb “de-escalation zone”. As the fighting between the Government of Syria (GoS) forces and their allies and non-state armed groups (NSAGs) across southern Idleb, northern Hama and western Aleppo governorates continues, the humanitarian situation in northwest Syria is deteriorating. Civilians living in NSAG-controlled areas suffer from daily attacks such as airstrikes and shelling. Civilians in GoS-controlled areas adjacent to frontlines live in fear of attacks. Since the beginning of the escalation of hostilities in late April, hundreds of civilians, many of whom are women and children, have lost their lives, Countless others have suffered severe injuries, and in many cases, these are life altering injuries, leaving them permanently disabled. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has documented the deaths of at least 450 civilians as of 26 July. Unconfirmed reports from local sources indicate that more than 700 civilians have been killed as a result of hostilities in northwest Syria since late April.
Some of the most horrific attacks in northwest Syria witnessed since late April took place in the past two weeks. On 16 July, in Maar Shurin in Idleb governorate, 12 people, including one child, lost their lives as a result of airstrikes at a market. On 21 July, ten civilians including three children and two women were reportedly killed by airstrikes in Orm Eljoz town. 22 July was the most violent day this year with at least 59 civilians reportedly killed and over 100 women, children and men injured. In Ma’arrat An Nu’man, airstrikes in a busy market reportedly resulted in the deaths of at least 39 people, including eight women and five children in the morning hours. In the evening hours, airstrikes in a local market in Saraqab resulted in eight reported deaths, including one woman and four children. On July 24, at least twenty people were killed across northwest Syria due to airstrikes, including eight women and six children. In particular, airstrikes hit residential areas, gravely affecting families in Ariha, Mhambal and Tabish, almost exclusively killing women and children.
The widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure, such as homes, bakeries, markets, hospitals, schools and water stations, adds to the suffering of civilians in northwest Syria. Since late April, at least 37 incidents involving health facilities or personnel have been reported, killing and injuring civilians, and damaging or destroying vital health facilities that are essential for the survival and wellbeing of the people. As health facilities are perceived to be in danger of being impacted by airstrikes, health personnel reportedly strive to discharge the patients as fast as they can, in an effort to keep them safe. 47 schools and several water stations were reportedly damaged or destroyed by airstrikes or shelling, disrupting access to clean water and education for hundreds of thousands of people. This is in in addition to the total destruction of residential areas as well. In southern Idleb and northern Hama, the United Nations has satellite imagery demonstrating that at least 16 out of 27 assessed communities have been almost completely destroyed in the fighting. These include people’s homes, farms, markets, and mosques. Communities in GoS-controlled areas also continue to suffer from hostilities as the security situation in areas close to frontlines, particularly in parts of Aleppo city and Hama governorate, deteriorated in the past two weeks. Between 11 and 23 July, local sources reported that some 15 civilians were killed due to hostilities while dozens of others have been injured. Humanitarian workers who put their lives at risk to support the people in need are not spared from the violence. Since late April, nine humanitarian aid workers were killed due to hostilities. Some of them were on duty, trying to alleviate the suffering of others, when they were killed.
The threat of continuing violence, the destruction of homes, the decimation of the institutions on which people rely on to survive are leaving the population with few options but to flee their communities. People are taking calculated risks, as moving on roads exposed to airstrikes is also dangerous. Often it is the most vulnerable who do not have economic means or who are elderly or disabled who are left behind. Those who stay behind are often dependent on humanitarian assistance for their survival. Particularly in areas closer to the frontline that are more immediately affected by the violence, reaching people in need becomes more and more challenging as all movement is considered perilous.
Since the beginning of May, 452,623 displacements have occurred as people fled their homes in southern Idleb and northern Hama to escape from the hostilities. Of the three million people in northwest Syria, 1.3 million are estimated to be IDPs and many have been displaced multiple times during the conflict. This is yet another wave of displacement in a long succession of many, rapidly depleting what little resources civilians in northwest Syria may have, exacerbating their vulnerability to further shocks.
The majority of the newly displaced people are fleeing to northern Idleb to areas that are already densely-populated, mostly with IDPs that have been displaced to these areas previously. Dana sub-district remains as the destination for the majority of newly displaced individuals, where camps and host communities are already overcrowded, putting an additional strain on the provision of life-saving humanitarian assistance. Coupled with the widespread destruction of existing civilian infrastructure and on-going violence, the scale of the movement is likely to overstretch threadbare humanitarian services both for host communities and newly displaced individuals. According to a rapid needs assessment conducted across northern Idleb across communities hosting the highest number of new IDPs, key informants in 86% of the assessed communities reported that current levels of humanitarian assistance does not meet the needs of the IDPs. Areas under GoS-control in Hama governorate have, but to a much lesser extent, also received newly displaced people fleeing from hostilities. Since late April, 7,680 individuals have been displaced from NSAG-controlled to GoS-controlled areas, primarily to locations close to frontlines in Hama governorate.
The impact of hostilities on women and children, who make up for the 76% of the total population, is particularly severe. Of the three million civilians in northwest Syria living in NSAG-controlled areas, it is estimated that 25% are women and 51% are children. By way of comparison, the overall average for all Syria is 43% of children and 31% women in the total population. While many of those who are killed are women and children, those who are displaced or are part of the host communities suffer from the long-term consequences of hostilities. According to a rapid needs assessment, 51% of key informants report that child labour is happening in communities across northern Idleb, likely exposing children to abuse and exploitation. Moreover, 98% of assessed communities report that there will be future problems for IDP children in accessing education and 97% report the same for resident children in northern Idleb. This is not to mention the mental scars that children will carry with them for decades as a result of the traumas they have experienced.