The humanitarian situation for people in northwest Syria continues to deteriorate as the latest escalation in hostilities is now in its fourth month.
Hundreds of civilians have been killed or injured due to airstrikes and shelling since 1 May while almost 630,000 displacements took place as people have fled their homes to escape from violence and to reach essential services that they need to survive.
The overwhelming majority of the displaced people are moving to densely-populated areas close to the Turkish border in northern Idleb governorate, where humanitarian assistance is overstretched.
While the humanitarian response is ongoing to address the pressing needs of the newly displaced individuals as well as host communities, additional funding is urgently required to maintain and scale-up the current levels of emergency response in the coming weeks and months.
The humanitarian situation for the affected civilians remains alarming across northwest Syria. Hostilities between Government of Syria (GoS) forces and their allies and non-state armed groups (NSAGs) across Idleb, northern Hama and western Aleppo governorates has had severe humanitarian consequences for an estimated three million people, of whom 76% are estimated to be women and children.
Recent military activity in northern Hama and southern Idleb governorates had a drastic impact on the people living in these areas. Following the collapse of a conditional ceasefire on 5 August, GoS forces took control of several towns and villages in northern Hama including Kafr Zeita, Latmana and Latmin as well as in southern Idleb, including Khan Shaykun on the M5 highway. A renewed ceasefire began on 31 August, after which airstrikes reportedly ceased with the exception of an airstrike carried out by US Forces on a facility allegedly used by Al Qaeda-affiliated groups on 31 August. However, shelling reportedly continues to affect communities across southern Idleb.
Local sources reported an accelerated movement of civilians northward away from the hostilities as the frontlines shifted. While the exact number of displaced individuals is difficult to ascertain at this stage, local sources are reporting that entire communities fled from the violence and in anticipation of hostilities affecting their villages and towns. Between 1 and 27 August, more than 130,000 displacements have been recorded from northern Hama and southern Idleb governorates. Many of these individuals and families have been displaced before, some of them multiple times, which makes them extremely vulnerable to additional shocks. The most recent wave of displacement adds increasing vulnerability for people in already dire humanitarian situation in northwest Syria. From 1 May to 27 August, some 630,000 individual displacements, which include secondary displacements, have been recorded from northern Hama and southern Idleb governorates. Displacement within GoS-controlled areas is estimated currently at some 10,585 individuals, primarily in frontline villages in northern rural Hama and northern rural Latakia governorates.
Reports from civilians affected suggest that the patterns of displacement largely remain the same, with most people moving north close to the border with Turkey to areas that are already densely populated in northern Idleb. A small number of individuals are moving to northern Aleppo governorate as well as an estimated 7,720 people moving to GoS-controlled areas in northern rural Hama, Aleppo and Latakia governorates. Many displaced individuals move to overcrowded displacement sites or makeshift shelters, placing additional strain on overstretched humanitarian assistance in these areas. While displaced individuals, as well as receiving communities, have immediate humanitarian needs across all sectors, finding shelter remains one of the most pressing needs. Large scale and frequent population movements pose a particular challenge to humanitarian partners. Humanitarian partners in northern Idleb are increasingly reporting on the shortage of shelter options, increases in rents and some displaced people stay out in the open.
Since late April, hundreds of civilians, many of whom are women and children, have lost their lives while countless others have suffered severe injuries, often leaving them with permanent disabilities. From 19 April to 29 August, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) documented that 1,089 civilians, including 572 men, 213 women and 304 children, were killed due to airstrikes and shelling carried out by parties to the conflict. The suffering of women, men, boys and girls is exacerbated by the widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure crucial for survival. Since late April, 51 health care facilities have reported receiving damage by violence in northwest Syria, as reported by WHO. Over the course of only two days, 28 to 30 August, seven medical facilities were reportedly damaged by airstrikes according to WHO. Six of these facilities – four hospitals and two primary health care centres – were functional at the time of the incidents. At least two of the health facilities damaged by airstrikes in August were paediatrics and maternity hospitals, yet another example of the heavy toll that the violence is taking on women and children. Similarly, the devastating effect of the hostilities on educational facilities will become more acute as the new school year is due to start in late September. While UNICEF reported 87 incidents that affected schools due the hostilities, education cluster members reported that 59 individual schools have been damaged by the violence since late April. Moreover, at least 94 schools are reportedly being used as shelter by IDPs across northwest Syria. According to one report, out of an estimated 650,000 school-aged children in northwest Syria, less than half can be accommodated at the remaining functional schools.
The civilian population has registered their frustration of the suffering they endure, and a series of demonstrations over the last week were noted. On 30 August, after Friday prayer, local sources reported that thousands of demonstrators gathered near the crossing points on the Turkish border to protest the ongoing military offensive of the GoS forces and to be allowed