Hundreds of thousands may be forced to flee northwest Syria if violence continues – Relief group


The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has warned that the escalation of violence in the last few days in northwest Syria is reaching catastrophic level as 650,000 people could be impacted and at risk of displacement.

Since the end of April, 1,460 civilians, including 417 children, have been killed as a result of the military escalation, according to the UN.

An attack on a marketplace and industrial zone last week already killed 15 people and injured dozens other.

IRC Middle East Policy Director, Misty Buswell, said, “The situation in northwest Syria was already at breaking point, and the events of the last few days mark a dangerous and deadly turning point in the conflict.

Many of the displaced are living in tents in the open, in freezing winter conditions and urgently need shelter and food, with the ongoing risk of flooding further compounding the misery.

The conflict has taken a psychological toll on the children as well.  An IRC assessment in Idlib last year found that half of parents reported their children showing signs of severe emotional distress, and the current violence will add to the psychological terror they are experiencing.

Hospitals and health facilities in Idlib were already full, and medical supplies stretched, even before this wave of violence.

Doctors have told the IRC that they are seeing a worrying increase in malnutrition cases, particularly among babies, due to displacement, poor food security and increased poverty as a result of the conflict.

Increasing insecurity has also forced the suspension of three IRC supported health facilities in central Idlib since December, further limiting the lifesaving response.

An IRC partner in Western Aleppo had to stop its protection programs for women and girls on January 15, leaving the most vulnerable without essential protection services.

“All parties to the conflict need to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law and spare civilians from the worst effects of the fighting. It is critical for the ceasefire that was agreed in northwest Syria to be implemented fully and without further delay,” Ms Buswell stressed.

“The very lives of three million civilians in northwest Syria depend on it,” she said. (Source: Relief Web)