UNICEF Syria Crisis Situation Report - September 2016
• After a short-lived cessation of hostilities in Syria in September, Aleppo has witnessed an unprecedented level of violence, particularly in the East of the city, where scores of civilians were killed and infrastructure, including water and health facilities, were repeatedly attacked. East Aleppo has not received UN humanitarian aid since early July.
• With the start of the new school year in September, UNICEF partners in Syria and refugee host countries are delivering essential educational supplies and implementing social mobilization campaigns to encourage families to send their children to school or to benefit from alternative learning opportunities.
• UNICEF aims to reach about 2.5 million vulnerable children inside Syria and those who have taken refuge in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt, with essential winter clothing and supplies and has launched an urgent appeal of US$82.4 M (US$71.5 M gap) to support the implementation of the response plan.
• In Syria, UNICEF reached about 175,600 people in 25 hard-to-reach locations with life-saving interventions and critical services and delivered supplies for 52,700 beneficiaries in 7 besieged areas.
• Across the Syria crisis countries in 2016, UNICEF and partners have reached over 20 million of children under the age of 5 with polio vaccinations and over 1.3 million with a hygiene promotion session and/or hygiene kits. Additionally, UNICEF supported 588,382 children to access formal education in Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt.
• Since 2016, about 758,000 children and adults participated in structured and sustained child protection and psychosocial support programmes across Syria and countries hosting Syrian refugees in the region.
In Syria delivery of humanitarian assistance during September, including to people in hard to reach and besieged areas, was significantly hindered despite a nationwide cessation of hostilities announced on 12 September which only held for seven days. Brutal conflict and renewed insecurity, especially in parts of Aleppo, Homs and Rural Damascus, followed the breakdown of the agreement on 19 September.
During the reporting month, Aleppo witnessed an unprecedented level of violence particularly in the East where civilian infrastructure, including water and health facilities, were repeatedly attacked. On 28 September, two local makeshift medical facilities in East Aleppo were targeted by airstrikes. On 30 September, Al-Hakeem paediatric hospital in east Aleppo was hit by an airstrike resulting in damage to the building and equipment. East Aleppo is now under complete siege with no humanitarian aid or movement of people. UNICEF remains extremely concerned about the safety and wellbeing of children, the limited availability of healthcare following multiple attacks on hospitals, and the interruptions to water supply which could result in waterborne diseases.
On the evening of 19 September, a United Nations/ Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) inter-agency convoy to Urum al-Kubra (Big Orem), a few kilometres west of Aleppo city, came under attack. The convoy consisted of 31 trucks delivering lifesaving assistance, including water, sanitation and hygiene, health, nutrition and non-food items from UNICEF. At least 18 people, including the head of SARC in Urum al-Kubra, were killed. The UN Secretary General is establishing an internal UN Board of Inquiry to investigate the attack on the inter-agency convoy.
In Aleppo water continues to be used as a weapon of war. Both deliberate and collateral damage to the public water infrastructure was recorded during September. On 22 September, attacks by government forces on the Bab Al Nayrab water pumping station in eastern Aleppo interrupted water supply to some 250,000 people in the city. In retaliation, Armed Opposition Groups (AOGs) temporally cut water supply from Sulieman Al Halabi water pumping station to some 1.7 million people in western Aleppo. After negotiations between UNICEF partners and AOGs, the water pumping resumed. On 30 September, the water supply from Suleiman Al-Halabi pumping station serving both eastern and western Aleppo was again deliberately cut. As of 5 October, UNICEF’s partners managed to repair the damage to Bab Al Nayrab allowing water to flow to eastern Aleppo. Sulieman Al Halabi has also resumed operation although given repeated attacks and fighting in the vicinity, the future operation of the station is uncertain.
As children returned to school across the country on 18 September, reports from eastern Aleppo indicate that some schools in certain areas had yet to open as a result of the ongoing insecurity.
The nutrition situation in hard-to-reach and besieged areas remains critical, with children and pregnant and lactating women especially vulnerable given their specific nutritional needs. During the inter-agency mission to Madaya on 25 September, though no cases of acute malnutrition were recorded, UNICEF‘s team observed nutritional deficiencies indicating a lack of adequate micro-nutrient and protein intake amongst children. In addition, the team observed severe emotional distress, especially amongst women. Local health workers reported 12 recent cases of attempted suicide, 8 of them women. Health workers continue to work in Madaya without some of the most basic health equipment and supplies.
The Government of Jordan (GoJ) has in principle agreed to the UN proposal to restart lifesaving humanitarian assistance to Syrian people living in makeshift shelters along the border area between Jordan and Syria known as the "Berm”. This comes after GoJ ordered all northern borders with Syria closed on 21 June as a result of an attack in Rukban in north-eastern Jordan.
Through 20 June, UNICEF was providing comprehensive lifesaving assistance including health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene and child protection interventions for the highly vulnerable population. However, following the attack, access restrictions have impeded humanitarian assistance with UNICEF focusing on the distribution of hygiene kits at the start of August and daily water provision. It is estimated that about 75,000 people, mostly women and children, are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in the Berm.
By the end of September, the number of Syrian refugees in Iraq has reached 225,455 people including 92,887 children. The surge in violence between armed groups and government forces in Iraq has led to increased displacement among the population. With the anticipated US-backed offensive by Iraqi Security Forces to re-take the city of Mosul and surrounding ISIL-controlled areas further displacement is expected in the coming months. This could have a spillover effect on neighboring countries where Syrian refugees are also being hosted, adding further pressure to already strained service resources. UNICEF and partners are increasing efforts to overcome service gaps that could result from increased focus on immediate ‘first-line’ response for the internally displaced people.
In Lebanon, there are over one million Syrian refugees including over 500,000 children. The population continues to face considerable challenges due to the protracted nature of the crisis, high living costs, rising unemployment rates and declining income. The impact is compounded by the fact that Syrian refugees live in the most vulnerable and deprived parts of the country where public institutions and infrastructure are exceptionally overstressed, severely impacting access to and quality of basic services. In September, for the first time, there were evictions of refugees from three informal settlements with more than 100 households in the South Governorate of Lebanon. In Minieh area in Tripoli, there is an expected eviction of around 2,000 refugees by the deadline of 14 October, who will move to Akkar. UNICEF implementing partners are ready to provide necessary assistance for the resettling refugees.
Turkey hosts more than two million Syrian refugees, out of whom more than half are children. During the month of September, UNICEF worked closely with the Ministry of National Education to prepare for the return of refugee children1 to Turkish public schools and temporary education centres (TECs) for the 2016-2017 academic year, which began on 19 September – with a focus on student registration and scaled-up teacher training.
In Egypt there are currently over 117,000 registered Syrian refugees including 49,642 children. Syrian refugees continue to face a number of challenges including lengthy residency procedures, visa limitations, inflation, limited livelihood opportunities, and potential for workplace exploitation. Arbitrary arrest and detention, including detention of children, continues to occur because the refugee population often lacks proper documentation. Physical safety is also a concern, particularly for women, girls and persons living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Moreover, cost barriers impede access to essential services including health and education. In September, UNICEF continued the provision of non-food items and vaccines for children, including Syrians , who are being detained in north Coast detention centres (Al Bahira, Kafr Al Sheikh and Alexandria).
With the approach of the cold winter season, internally displaced and refugee Syrian families are living in severe financial distress and therefore are struggling to buy the most basic goods to keep their children warm. To ensure that no child is left in the cold, including Iraq IDPs and vulnerable host community children, UNICEF has launched an appeal of US$82.4 million (with a current gap of US$71.5 million) to provide 2.5 million targeted children inside Syria and those who have taken refuge in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt, with essential winter clothing and supplies, prioritizing the most vulnerable children, including the youngest, poorest and those living in besieged or hard to reach areas. Funds received will also be used to heat schools and to provide families with cash assistance and vouchers to help them address the most urgent needs for their children.