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Syria: UN remains alarmed over safety of 3 million civilians

20 Feb 2020

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Families flee the fighting in Idleb. Credit: HFO Project

The United Nations remains alarmed about the safety and protection of more than 3 million civilians in Idleb and surrounding areas, as reports of air strikes and shelling continue to take a heavy toll on the civilian population.

Yesterday, at least 15 communities in Idleb and Aleppo were reportedly hit by air strikes, and 11 communities were reportedly struck by shelling. Three people, including a woman, were allegedly killed and three others were allegedly injured.

According to WFP, food prices in Idleb have increased 120 per cent in one year. Most markets have closed, and supply routes are disrupted due to the hostilities.

A massive cross-border operation in north-west Syria is under way to assist civilians as needs escalate. A total of 1,227 trucks of humanitarian assistance crossed from Turkey through Bab al-Hawa and Bab al-Salam in January, compared with 928 trucks in December 2019. This is the largest amount of aid the UN has sent across the Syrian-Turkish border in any month since the operation was authorized in 2014.

Nearly 900 trucks carried food assistance for some 1.4 million people. Other trucks carried health supplies for almost 500,000 people, and non-food items for more than 230,000 people.

UN humanitarian operations have also been susceptible to the ongoing insecurity, with shipments hampered by hostilities, as well as road congestion, poor winter weather conditions and displacement of humanitarian partner staff.

The UN is working with the Government of Turkey to expand the opening of the Bab al-Hawa border crossing to seven days a week, in order to increase the number of aid trucks coming in. The UN is also asking the Government of Syria to conduct missions from Damascus to areas they have recently taken control of to assess the humanitarian needs on the ground.

A humanitarian readiness and response plan for north-west Syria was completed last month, covering both cross-border and delivery from within Syria, with a funding requirement of US$336 million to help 800,000 newly or potentially displaced people over the next six months.

It is now clear that this will be inadequate – a revised plan is being finalized to assist at least 1.1 million people. Some $500 million will be required to cover the planned activities.

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.