Despite the Syria war anniversary passing the eight year mark and entering its ninth year, Recent days have seen a new escalation in Idlib. A string of attacks, including medical facilities such as hospitals, a paediatric centre, a blood bank; and an ambulance garage, all hit and damaged. A medical centre supported by Islamic Relief was among those affected, with windows blown in and rubble spraying across hospital beds over the weekend. Some attacks used what is known as the ‘double tap’ technique’ which means that after the first attack when people gather to rescue people from the rubble, a second airstrike targets these people.
The crisis in Syria is far from over
Naser Haghamed, CEO of Islamic Relief, said: “The crisis in Syria is far from over and for more than three million people in Idlib there is still no end to this living nightmare”.
The unconscionable attacks this weekend were the worst we have seen in Idlib for months, affecting already beleaguered hospitals and health centres – and show us that we cannot ignore the people of Idlib. They also destroyed a public bakery, which is providing desperately needed food, keeping struggling families alive”.
Across the country, more than 450 civilians are believed to have been killed since January, with dozens of casualties every day. February saw a noticeable uptick in deaths, with some 280 people killed including high numbers of women and children and some medical staff. Islamic Relief’s mobile emergency teams alone treated some 30 civilians who suffered war-related injuries in recent weeks.
Dwindling aid supplies and restrictions on humanitarian access are only fanning the misery with widespread shortages of food, shelter and medicine all hitting residents hard and promoting mass displacement as people move from village to village in search of safety and supplies.
In February alone, 40,000 civilians were forced to uproot once again in north-west Syria, often in freezing cold and rain. Despite a temporary truce coming into force in Idlib in September, more than 200,000 people have been displaced there in the six months since, according to Camp Coordination and Management cluster data compiled by the UN and a coalition of aid groups on the ground. Many of them have been displaced several times before, with 1.5 million people in Idlib already displaced from other parts of Syria.
On December 26, an unusually heavy rainfall caused severe flash flooding in northern Syria along the Turkish Border. Hundreds of tents were washed away in Atme, karama, Dana, Sarmada, Al Bab, Atareb and Qah in the northern Syria.
Camps in Idlib – currently home to more than 190,000 people – are already bursting at the seams, with conditions deteriorating for many as aid dries up and the international community shifts its attention elsewhere. During the month of the Syria War Anniversary we reflect on the calamities, tragedies and the price of human suffering. Syrians have suffered in home, out of home, whether displaced or as refugees.
Naser Haghamed added,
“There are grave shortages of food and medicine and families continue to be displaced at a shocking rate. Some families have been displaced ten times or more during the eight years of crisis and some 40,000 are having to pick up and leave again just last month in the Idlib region.
Every time a family has to move due to security risks, or because they do not have access to the most basic of services, they become poorer as well as more at risk of abuses like child marriage and forced recruitment by armed groups. Children often have to drop out of school, while the rest of their families struggle to get jobs and are torn apart from their support networks.
After eight years, people in Idlib increasingly feel like the international community has forgotten about them. They have no idea what will happen to them next or when or if they will ever be able to go home or if they and their families will live to see an end to this barbaric crisis.”
While a truce agreement signed in September helped to reduce the violence in the north-western enclave, uncertainty remains, and people do not know if or when a fresh assault might begin.
Their ability to cope in the event of an escalation has been severely undermined by years of brutality that has seen many hospitals and health centres damaged, destroyed or forced underground in an attempt to protect their patients from bombs and bullets.
Haghamed said, “The danger that children are facing every single day is completely unacceptable. They do not feel safe in their homes or tents. They do not feel safe on their way to, or at school and they do not feel safe about their future – fearing that if they do not fall victim to bombs or bullets they could end up forced into often dangerous types of child labour just to make ends meet.”
“Even as this need grows though, the situation in Idlib continues to fall further down people’s priority list. But we cannot allow this tragedy to unfold unnoticed and for children here to know nothing but suffering. “The international community cannot look away as the children of Idlib and Syria have to face yet another year of violence, displacement and deprivation. We urgently need a lasting and durable peace solution for the whole of Syria”.
“As EU member states gather in Brussels, Islamic Relief is calling for immediate humanitarian support to revive the economy and essential services so that people no longer have to go hungry, so that they can access basic health services and so that children no longer go to sleep terrified of whether they will wake up or not.”
Eight years of this is far too much already and we deserve to give all the people of Syria hope and dignity once again.
Islamic Relief is doing what it can to provide food, education, health care, shelter water and sanitation and opportunities to earn a living for people in Idlib and are one of the last major international NGOs to still operate on the ground. We also provide extensive support to Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, where millions have fled due to the violence.
Islamic Relief is one of the largest aid providers in Syria (and to refugees in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey) and continues to operate directly on the ground in Idlib.