Syrian Arab Republic: Recent Developments in Northwestern Syria Situation Report No. 5 - As of 8 January 2020
• Since 1 December 2019, more than 312,000 people fled from their homes, mainly from southern Idleb governorate, moving further north away from the hostilities. Ma’arrat An Nu’man and its countryside are reportedly depopulated, while thousands of people from Saraqab and its eastern countryside fled in anticipation of hostilities extending to their area.
• Most of the recently displaced people moved to urban centres and IDP camps in northwestern Idleb. Tens of thousands have reportedly moved to areas such as Afrin and A’zaz in northern Aleppo governorate seeking safety and access to services.
• An unstable security situation prevails with daily reports of bombardments, affecting civilian infrastructure, such as schools and IDP camps.
• Displacement during winter is further exacerbating the vulnerability of those affected. Many who fled are in urgent need of humanitarian support, particularly shelter, food, health, non-food and winterization assistance.
Hostilities in northwest Syria continue to have devastating consequences for the civilians. Due to the escalation of violence in December - particularly in southern parts of Idleb - more than 312,000 people were displaced in northwest Syria, 80 percent of whom are women and children. Many had to flee their homes within the space of hours without any belongings while others managed take with them what they needed to survive, believing that they would not be coming back. The majority of those newly displaced have stayed within the Idleb area, moving to either urban centres such as Idleb city or Ariha or to areas that already have significant IDP populations such as Dana, Maaret Tamsrin and Atareb. Some 30,000 of newly displaced individuals chose to move to areas in northern Aleppo governorate to seek safety and to reach services.
Given the possibility of further intensification of hostilities, many civilians, particularly those who live in areas close to the frontlines in Idleb area, are worried that hostilities may affect their communities next and are likely to move on a short notice.
Yet, those who fled their homes in southern Idleb due to hostilities continue to be deeply affected by the violence. On 1 January, local sources reported that shelling hit a residential area in Sarmin, including a school which was partially used as an IDP shelter, killing nine people, including five children and a pregnant teacher. On 5 January, local sources reported that airstrikes in Ariha, a town that has received thousands of new IDPs in December, resulted in the death of at least 11 people, including several children.
While the most essential needs following the displacement focus on life-saving assistance such as food support and shelter, the humanitarian needs across sectors are growing exponentially at arrival locations putting another layer of strain on the provision of humanitarian assistance and on host communities. Four million people live in northwest Syria, of which 2.8 are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance. Women and children are estimated to make up for the 76 percent of this population, made vulnerable by eight years of crisis, violence, economic downturn and multiple displacements.
Commensurate with the needs of both the newly displaced and host populations, the humanitarian actors continue to scale up their response, particularly in areas that have recently received IDPs. Humanitarian organizations that had suspended their operations in southern Idleb due to hostilities are now relocating their services to northern parts of Idleb to the extent possible. Moreover, those humanitarian actors who were already operating in these areas are expanding their programming to reach newly displaced people.
However, the rapid displacement as well as the previously existing needs on the ground mean more resources are needed to support all those in need in northern Syria. The current crisis compounds an already dire humanitarian situation in northwest Syria where an estimated 400,000 people have been displaced between May and August 2019. The main needs of the most recently displaced individuals, as reported by the CCCM, are non-food items, shelter, food and cash assistance. Currently, almost half of those newly displaced are living with host families and rented houses while 33 percent are living in camps or individual tents. In particular, the winter weather is adding another layer of urgency to the situation with flooding frequently affecting camps and informal settlements and many families seeking shelter in unfinished buildings.
With the displacement movement slowing, the needs of newly displaced and host communities across all sectors will emerge more on clearly beyond the emergency assistance, such as health services for chronic illnesses and maternal care. Additional education assistance for tens of thousands of newly displaced children who could not attend school for the most part of the semester, if not for several years, will be needed to support these children.