Highlights - Since 9 March, nearly 133,000 IDPs have left the besieged enclave of East Ghouta, either through established corridors to the IDP sites in Rural Damascus or through evacuation agreements to Idleb and Aleppo governorates.
Over 39,000 people have left the IDP sites through a sponsorship system; however, many sites remain overcrowded, hosting IDPs well beyond their capacity. The UN and other humanitarian partners continue to provide support to people at the eight IDP sites with multi-sectoral assistance.
There continue to be severe humanitarian needs in the besieged area of East Ghouta and in areas that have recently shifted control. Some assistance is being provided to the population remaining in newly accessible areas while there has been no access to the besieged area of Duma since the last inter-agency convoy reached the area on 15 March 2018.
The UN and partners continue to face a $74m funding gap to respond with life-saving assistance and protection services to those affected by the East Ghouta crisis, including people at IDP sites in Rural Damascus and to those who remained in East Ghouta. This figure does not include the funds needed to support the IDPs who were displaced to northern Syria.
The number of IDPs who have left East Ghouta since 9 March has reached nearly 133,000 IDPs. This includes a total of 83,564 people2 who left East Ghouta towards IDP sites in Rural Damascus. According to the authorities, some 47 per cent of them (39,295 individuals) have since been screened and through a sponsorship system were able to leave the sites and are staying with relatives or acquaintances elsewhere. Some 44,308 individuals remain inside the IDP sites, in facilities that only have the capacity to accommodate 25,855 people. In addition, some 49,414 individuals, including mostly civilians and some fighters, have left East Ghouta towards northern governorates in negotiated evacuations.
Additional negotiations are ongoing between the parties to the conflict in Duma, with some evacuations reportedly having taking place in the past few days. Estimates of people remaining in the besieged area vary between 78,000 and 150,000 individuals. The area was last reached by the UN on 15 March 2018, when a UN/SARC/ICRC convoy delivered food assistance for 26,100 people. The UN and its partners continue to advocate and negotiate for access to the besieged population of Duma, where the humanitarian situation is severe. No humanitarian supplies are able to reach the area and access to basic services is minimal. Food commodities are in extremely short supply, noting that some of the delivered food commodities on 15 March were reportedly destroyed on 18 March, when shelling hit a warehouse in Duma.
The UN and its partners, through SARC, are providing food, WASH, nutrition, protection services and health support to those remaining inside areas of East Ghouta that have recently shifted control, such as Kafr Batna, Saqba and Hammouriya. The estimated 50,000 individuals in these areas are in need of basic assistance, services and protection, which are minimal after years of conflict and besiegement.
Despite the scaling up of the humanitarian response, the situation in the eight IDP sites remains difficult, as most are overcrowded, with nearly twice as many IDPs in the facilities as their intended capacity permits. There is an urgent need for the authorities to accelerate the decongestion of the sites to address protection risks that stem from overcrowding and a lack of privacy, and to further develop sanitation and hygiene facilities, especially to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.
While a number of new IDP sites have been identified and may possibly host newly displaced individuals, the authorities need to expedite the exit of IDPs from the sites to further decongest them. This will also allow IDPs to access other services, including health and protection services in Damascus and Rural Damascus that are already in place, and/or to make housing arrangements with close relatives and acquaintances where conditions are better. The exit procedures currently applied at the IDP sites mainly facilitate the exit of women, girls, boys under 17 and the elderly above 65 years once they have been screened and obtained some form of sponsorship. Sponsorship requirements continue to be unevenly applied at the different IDP sites, and further clarification and clear communication by the authorities with the IDP population regarding their options and the exact sponsorship requirements are urgently needed. The UN continues to receive reports of family separations, be it at the exit points of East Ghouta or at the IDP sites, and urges the authorities to facilitate the process of family reunifications.
There is an urgent need for funding, with the overall Syria humanitarian response currently 7.7 per cent funded and the UN and partners facing a $74m funding gap to assist the Ghouta IDPs who are hosted in the IDP sites in Rural Damascus and those who have remained in East Ghouta (this does not include the funds needed to support the IDPs who have been displaced to northern governorates). To address the funding gap, the Syria Humanitarian Fund has launched a reserve allocation of $20m for the East Ghouta and Afrin displacement crises.
The UN continues to closely monitor the developments in the Duma area of East Ghouta, as an influx of newly displaced people from the Duma area would require even more shelter space and a scaled up contingency response plan. With regards to possible evacuations from Duma, the UN is not involved in the negotiations or evacuations and reiterates that mass evacuations of civilians should be a measure of last resort, as mandated by international humanitarian law, and has to occur in line with minimum standards and protection guarantees. The UN emphasizes that in the case of evacuations, guarantees that ensure the safe and voluntary exit of civilians need to be put in place, including the freedom of movement of IDPs, the protection of their properties and assets, and their right to return to their homes.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.