The humanitarian situation in northwest Syria in Idlib and Aleppo governorates continues to deteriorate at an alarming rate due to the ongoing violence which has escalated since December 2019.
There have now been 18 attacks on medical facilities supported by Islamic Relief since December, including three this week alone. The latest happened just on Wednesday evening. More than 900,000 people – 60 percent of whom have been children and 21 percent of whom have been women – have now been displaced. This is the biggest wave of displacement since the beginning of the Syria crisis in March 2011, according to the UN.
Fears are growing that the worst is yet to come, with more clashes now expected in the north and the front lines edging ever closer to Idlib city, which is still home to more than 400,000 people.
Islamic Relief Syria’s Country Director Ahmed Mahmoud* said:
“What is happening in Idlib is simply unimaginable – our teams are calling this the end of times, Armageddon.
“In just over ten weeks, nearly one million people – a third of the population of Idlib or almost equivalent to the population of Birmingham – have been forced to flee. This includes 90 percent of our staff and their families, with hundreds of thousands more people fleeing north in the often below freezing cold weather to escape the barrage of bombs and the fast approaching front lines tightening around them.
“People on the ground are saying that they are waiting to see if they will die of the cold or from one of the many airstrikes and bombardment pounding down every hour. That it has come to this is unconscionable
“Seven children have already frozen to death or suffocated by dirty smoke from makeshift fires as families burn anything they can find to get warm. Medical teams we support are having to treat scores of people with communicable diseases (colds, flu, skin infections etc) which are exacerbated by bad weather and vastly overcrowded living conditions. We estimate that 200,000 people are sleeping in open spaces, relying only on the trees or walls of old or unfinished buildings above them for shelter.
“Even as needs rise, our ability to respond is shrinking. Eighteen health facilities supported by Islamic Relief have been hit since December, including three this week alone. In total, 74 medical facilities including hospitals that were providing care to hundreds of thousands of people – have had to close over the past few months.
“Islamic Relief has mobile medical units – trucks converted to makeshift mobile operation rooms for surgeries – that are doing what they can but we simply cannot keep apace. We are really concerned fighting will escalate further, leading to clashes in the north and displacement on an even more horrifying scale.
“We urgently need support and are calling for £1.5 million in emergency funding so that we can continue to provide warm food, shelter and medicine to those displaced.”
In 2019, Islamic Relief helped more than 2 million people inside Syria.
*Ahmed Mahmoud has been quoted under a pseudonym for security reasons.