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Syria: UN continues to seek improved access to people in need as displacements rise

26 Feb 2020

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Families flee violence in Idleb, Syria. Credit: HFO Project

As reports of air strikes and shelling continue to take a heavy toll on civilians in Idleb and surrounding areas, the United Nations continues to seek ways to reach more people in need, including in front-line areas of north-west Syria.

The situation in Idleb is increasingly dire following an increase in hostilities in the past 48 hours. Air strikes were reported yesterday in 19 communities and shelling in 10 villages in Idleb and Hama.

Civilians continue to bear the brunt of the hostilities. At least 21 civilians, including 5 women and 9 children, were reportedly killed by air strikes and ground-based attacks. The strikes also hit and damaged educational and medical facilities, including several that were serving as shelter for displaced people.

Idleb Central Hospital was among the facilities reportedly damaged yesterday. A civilian man was killed and four civilians were injured, including several medical professionals. Operations at the facility were suspended after the incident, except for emergency medical treatments.

A number of schools have reportedly suspended classes in Idleb city, and in eastern and southern Idleb countryside due to the insecurity. This comes after classes resumed on a partial basis on 22 February in parts of Idleb governorate.

The UN continues seek ways to expand the ongoing humanitarian response on the ground, including by increasing the capacity of the cross-border mechanism to accommodate upwards of 100 trucks per day. The UN is also organizing assessment missions from within Syria to identify the needs of civilians that remain in former front-line areas.

 

Mark Cutts, UN Deputy Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis

 

The latest estimates suggest that some 948,000 people have been displaced in north-west Syria since 1 December 2019, an increase of about 73,000 from the previous week. Women and children comprise more than 80 per cent of all displaced people.

Earlier this week, the UN launched the revised Humanitarian Readiness and Response Plan for north-west Syria. The plan has been updated in response to the surge of needs on the ground. It aims to reach at least 1.1 million people in need with humanitarian assistance, at a total cost of US$500 million.

The Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, talked recently with Noel King of NPR’s “Morning Edition” about what renewed fighting in north-west Syria has done to civilians.

Needs on the ground continue to outstrip the humanitarian community’s capacity to respond. The most urgent need remains an immediate ceasefire and the protection of civilians.

About US$30 million has been dispersed by the Central Emergency Response Fund for the emergency, and an additional allocation of $40 million from the Syria Cross-Border Humanitarian Fund is under way.

In his latest briefing to the UN Security Council on 19 February, Mr. Lowcock called for an immediate ceasefire and for international humanitarian law to be upheld.