As the current fighting continues unabated, risks of eastern Aleppo city being cut off from cross-border access increases.
Amid intermittent disruptions in access, humanitarian partners continue to stockpile supplies in eastern Aleppo city. The below map demonstrates active frontlines and areas of control as of 25 February:
Increased fighting since early February between Government of Syria (GOS) and allied forces and Non State Armed Groups (NSAGS) resulted in the cutting off of the key supply corridor from the Bab al Salam border crossing point to NSAG-controlled eastern Aleppo city. As a result, many humanitarian agencies, previously using the Bab al Salam border crossing point to access eastern Aleppo city, have had to reroute supplies through Idleb governorate, via the Bab al Hawa border crossing point.
In the last two weeks GoS and allies have intensified aerial activity over Haritan and Tall Refaat sub districts in Aleppo governorate and Kurdish YPG fighters have seized several towns and villages south of Azaz city, further reducing access to eastern Aleppo city and threatening to cut it off completely from cross-border assistance.
Fighting between YPG and NSAGs in and around the Bani Zaid district, adjacent to Castello Road, has caused major interruptions. The Castello Road is the last remaining cross-border access route into eastern Aleppo city. YPG snipers have been targeting civilian cars as they leave and enter the city. According to sources in field hospitals around the city 19 civilians have been treated for bullet wounds, including children and the elderly. One humanitarian organization reports that small pickup trucks are still able to access the city with humanitarian assistance. However there are reports of delays, with many drivers stuck in the city or unable to enter due to fighting.
South of Aleppo city, the Khanasir road, the only access route to western Aleppo, has been seized by ISIL, cutting off consistent access to GoS-held western Aleppo city. On 21 February ISIL began attacks and by 23 February had taken control of most of the road and Khanasir town. By 25 February the GoS had re-taken Khanasir town but parts of the road were still reported as held by ISIL. As long as the route is contested, access to western Aleppo city will remain difficult. Local sources living in western Aleppo city report that the price of fuel, potable water and food has risen considerably in GoS controlled districts in the city. The lack of ground access to both east and west Aleppo could further exacerbate needs throughout the city.
Humanitarian Assistance to eastern Aleppo city
Eastern Aleppo city is of particular concern due to fears it may be cut off from humanitarian aid by the fighting. The eastern Aleppo local council estimates that there are 300,000 people in eastern Aleppo city although some partners estimate that the number now may be lower. According to both CCCM cluster and NPM assessments more than 9,400 people have left eastern Aleppo city since the start of the latest military offensive on 1 February. Humanitarian partners estimate that 100,000-150,000 people might leave eastern Aleppo city if the situation continues to deteriorate, although many cannot afford to pay for transportation. Food prices, according to REACH, are increasing in eastern Aleppo city - bulgur, bread, chicken and flour are more expensive, although other commodities, such as cooking oil and Butane have decreased in price.
UN agencies and NGOs based in Turkey are making contingency plans and stockpiling assistance in case crossborder access to eastern Aleppo city is cut off. They are planning sufficient assistance for 150,000 people for three months. Food and supplies are being shipped in via the two border crossings at Bab al Salam and Bab al Hawa, although access to the city has been intermittent and highly dangerous. Fuel, which needs to be purchased locally, has been a priority as it is used to power water systems, generators for hospitals, and bakeries. These plans are complemented by requests for inter-agency cross-line convoys from the United Nations in Syria to the GoS, including for 50,000 people in eastern Aleppo city. As of 24 February, authorizations for these requests were still pending. Through the Whole of Syria approach these efforts are being coordinated with cross-border actors.
Regarding food assistance, from 12-18 February, the most recent week for which full data is available, food security cluster members distributed bread and food baskets to 8,588 households and stocked 10,467 food baskets and 3,240 mixed food items inside eastern Aleppo city1 . This is in addition to support provided by city committees. 70 percent of households in eastern Aleppo city depend on humanitarian aid as their primary food source2 raising concerns that malnutrition might quickly become an issue if the flow of assistance into the city is disrupted and stocks are insufficient. The relief office of the eastern Aleppo city council reports that overall there is a monthly need of 15,350 food baskets, with households of six or more people receiving monthly assistance and smaller families receiving it every other month.
The key WASH-related issue in eastern Aleppo city is access to drinking water. The main water network for Aleppo city has not been operational since 16 January. The city has numerous boreholes and other water sources so water is available for general domestic use; although most wells are contaminated by coliforms and/or nitrates. In opposition-controlled neighborhoods, safe water is available from a limited number of treated and uncontaminated wells. This is sold by private vendors at a very high price, or provided by the local council using a small fleet of water trucks. Water and sanitation hardware may cease to function and hygiene items may become scarce if transport routes are completely cut-off. WASH partners are working to improve water and sanitation conditions through distributing water purification tablets and repairing water supply infrastructure. Longer-term plans include the rehabilitation of neighborhood wells, the provision of additional water tankers, and the drilling of a high capacity well.
Health partners, in conjunction with the local Health Directorate have established a health referral network in eastern Aleppo city to respond to an estimated 150,000 people. There are ten hospitals and eleven public health centres, each of which has been given a specific area of responsibility, such as maternity or reproductive health. Most emergency supplies, including surgical kits, medicine, medical equipment, and fuel, have now been stockpiled for three months. Emergency nutrition supplies for six months have been stocked in eastern Aleppo city. Ten partners are planning or currently implementing programs for the emergency treatment of malnutrition and are adjusting targets to meet needs. Schools in eastern Aleppo city are still operational, although partners report a 20 per cent decrease in student attendance, down to 60 per cent in the Old City, and a ten per cent decrease in teacher attendance.
WFP, UNICEF, and IOM shipped 58 truckloads of FSL, Health, NFI and WASH assistance from 16 February to 22 February 2016 under UN Security Council resolution 2258, through both the Bab al Hawa and Bab al Salam border crossings. The assistance targets 65,950 individuals with food assistance, 1,500 individuals with health, and 23,523 individuals with NFIs and WASH assistance in eastern Aleppo city.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.