Approximately 586,000 people in northwest Syria have been driven from their homes since December 1, when the national government began a campaign against rebel groups in Idlib and Aleppo governorates. The region is the last outpost of rebel control in the country.
The fighting is wreaking havoc on essential services, such as water, sanitation, and healthcare. Many displaced people are without shelter or running water, according to aid groups. The World Health Organization reports that more than 50 healthcare facilities in northwest Syria were forced to close in January due to the increased conflict.
An airstrike carried out by the Syrian government on February 4 also caused major structural damage to a hospital in Idlib. The current conditions raise the likelihood that measles, diarrhea, and other diseases will spread across northwest Syria.
Food and fuel are also becoming more scarce amid intensifying inflation. In an interview with Al Jazeera, a Syrian woman displaced near the Turkish border said she is currently paying 450 Syrian lira for bread that cost just 15 lira a year ago.
“I keep going only for the sake of my children. The situation is so bad, it is like Judgement Day,” the woman, who asked that her real name not be used, told Al Jazeera.
Humanitarian agencies are attempting to aid affected populations, but some areas are unreachable due to the severity of the conflict.
Living conditions in the region are deteriorating, with an estimated 200,000 people displaced from January 26 to February 2 alone. Many people are experiencing their second or third displacement within the past few months. As of February 5, nearly 300 civilians have died in the recent fighting.
Josep Borrell, the High Representative of the European Union, and Janez Lenarčič, the EU’s Commissioner for Crisis Management, issued a joint statement on February 6 decrying the violence.
“Bombings and other attacks on civilians in northwest Syria must stop. The European Union urges all parties to the conflict to allow unimpeded humanitarian access to people in need of assistance and to respect the rules and obligations of international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians,” the statement declared.
“More than 500,000 people have been forced to flee their homes during the last two months alone, and are facing harsh winter conditions without being able to cover basic needs for shelter, water, food or health services. Serious violations of international humanitarian law have become commonplace.”
In total, UNICEF reports that 6.2 million Syrians are internally displaced, and 11.7 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. The country is in its ninth year of conflict.
Kayla Ritter is a recent graduate of Michigan State University, where she studied International Relations and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. She is currently based in Manton, Michigan. Kayla enjoys running, writing, and traveling. Contact Kayla Ritter