Syria Complex Emergency - Fact Sheet #5 FY18

March 9, 2018

Clashes continue despite February 24 UNSC resolution calling for 30-day ceasefire

Conflict in Eastern Ghouta kills more than 1,000 civilians in 20 days

GoT Operation Olive Branch displaces 35,000–50,000 people since January 20

Humanitarian convoys arrive in Eastern Ghouta and Afrin

WFP reaches nearly 2.4 million beneficiaries in January

On February 24, the UN Security Council (UNSC) unanimously adopted a resolution demanding a 30-day nationwide ceasefire in Syria to allow unimpeded and sustained humanitarian access to conduct life-saving interventions. However, Syrian Arab Republic Government (SARG) airstrikes and bombardments continued in Rif Damascus Governorate’s SARG-besieged Eastern Ghouta region following the resolution, and the SARG launched a ground offensive in the region on February 25, according to international media. Conflict in Eastern Ghouta has killed more than 1,000 people and injured at least 2,500 others since February 18, international media report.

On March 5, a joint UN, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) humanitarian convoy delivered life-saving assistance to Eastern Ghouta, transporting emergency food assistance, as well as health and nutrition supplies. According to the UN, SARG officials removed an estimated 70 percent of medical supplies from the convoy prior to arrival, and 13 of the 46 trucks were only partially unloaded due to an escalation in conflict during the initial delivery process. The convoys completed the delivery of the remaining commodities on March 9, reaching the planned caseload of 27,500 people.

Operation Olive Branch—a Government of Turkey (GoT) military offensive in Aleppo Governorate’s Kurdish-controlled Afrin District and surrounding areas—continued through early March, relief organizations report. As of mid-February, the offensive had displaced an estimated 35,000–50,000 people, according to the UN.

An ICRC and SARC humanitarian convoy reached Afrin on March 1, the ICRC reports. The convoy included approximately 430 metric tons (MT) of emergency relief commodities sufficient for 50,000 people.

Numbers At A Glance

13.1 million

People in Need of Humanitarian Assistance in Syria

6.1 million

IDPs in Syria

4 million

People Reached per Month by USG Assistance in Syria

5.6 million

Syrian Refugees in Neighboring Countries

3.5 million

Syrian Refugees in Turkey

995,500

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

657,600

Syrian Refugees in Jordan

247,400

Syrian Refugees in Iraq

438,000

Palestinian Refugees in Syria

Humanitarian Funding

To Syria Humanitarian Response
FY 2012 - FY 2018

USAID/OFDA $1,467,232,578
USAID/FFP $2,495,220,280
State/PRM $3,736,575,196
TOTAL $7,699,028,054

 

Central and Southern Syria

Despite the February 24 UNSC resolution demanding a 30-day ceasefire across Syria, Syrian President Bashar al-Asad reiterated on March 4 that the SARG military offensive in Eastern Ghouta will continue, international media report. Intensified SARG military operations in the region continue to kill civilians, displace populations, and compromise relief operations. Since an escalation in clashes on February 18, SARG airstrikes, bombardments, and ground assaults in Eastern Ghouta have killed more than 1,000 people and injured at least 2,500 others, according to international media.

There are unconfirmed reports indicating increasing levels of internal displacement within Eastern Ghouta. Displaced and other vulnerable populations are primarily sheltering underground and reliant on humanitarian assistance, relief organizations report. The majority of households are only able to leave the safety of the underground shelters during early morning hours when airstrikes and bombardments are less frequent.

On March 6, international media reported a suspected chlorine gas attack targeting Eastern Ghouta’s Hamouriyeh town; health facilities treated approximately 30 people in the town for respiratory distress and symptoms consistent with chlorine gas exposure. A February 25 suspected chemical attack in the region’s Sheifouniyeh town reportedly killed one child, and health agencies treated at least 17 additional civilians—including six children and two local emergency responders—for symptoms consistent with chemical exposure, local media report. To date in 2018, health authorities have reported at least eight suspected uses of chemical weapons in Syria, bringing the total number of suspected chemical weapons attacks in Syria to at least 198 since 2011.

Northern Syria

Relief agencies report that Operation Olive Branch continued as of early March, resulting in civilian deaths, population displacement, and increasing humanitarian needs. The UN estimates that the GoT offensive had displaced an estimated 35,000–50,000 people from peripheral communities toward central areas of Afrin as of February 14, as well as caused additional displacement out of the district. Populations displaced by the offensive are residing with relatives and host communities; in public buildings, including mosques and schools; or informal settlements. Priority humanitarian needs among internally displaced persons (IDPs) include blankets, food, and health care services, the UN reports.

Local authorities continue to prevent civilians from leaving Afrin, with exceptions for critically injured individuals, according to the UN. However, the UN reports that the Nabul–Ziyara route connecting Afrin to SARG-held areas in Aleppo remains open to commercial traffic. Despite the limitations on civilian movements, more than 4,100 IDPs reached SARG-controlled areas—including Aleppo’s Azaz District and Aleppo city—from Afrin through unofficial routes between January 20 and February 13, the UN reports.

Intensified conflict between SARG forces and armed opposition groups in northern Hamah and southern Idlib continued to kill civilians and displace populations through February. Between December 25, 2017, and February 5, 2018, airstrikes and shelling killed more than 220 civilians, international media report. In mid-February, aerial attacks and shelling incidents in Idlib, primarily in eastern and southern areas of the governorate, killed more than 35 people, injured at least 70 others, and caused extensive damaged to infrastructure—including a grain storage facility, a health clinic, local government buildings, and a school—according to the UN.

Meanwhile, the Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) Cluster recorded more than 353,700 primary and secondary displacements from northern Hamah, southern Idlib, and western Aleppo between December 15 and February 17, due to conflict between the SARG and armed opposition groups. According to the CCCM Cluster, recent displacement figures in the three governorates have stabilized to approximately 28,000–30,000 displacements per week following a spike of nearly 73,800 displacements recorded from January 7–13; however, displacement remains elevated since the surge in conflict commenced in December. Due to the influx of IDPs, most IDP camps in Idlib were operating beyond capacity as of mid-February, the CCCM Cluster reports.

Northeastern Syria

As of February 12, military operations had displaced nearly 256,000 people from and within Dayr az Zawr Governorate and approximately 318,800 people from and within Ar Raqqah Governorate during the previous 12 months, according to the CCCM Cluster. In response, relief agencies—including USG partners—are providing emergency food, health care, shelter, and other support to affected populations.

Although an estimated 61,000 individuals have returned to Ar Raqqah city—primarily in western parts of the city—since October 20, precise returnee figures remain difficult to verify due to security risks posed by unexploded ordnance. During a mid-January visit to the city, UN representatives noted that the pace and scale of returns continues to increase, despite the risk of explosive hazards and lack of basic services and economic opportunities. According to the UN, Ar Raqqah’s Mashlab neighborhood reached maximum capacity, with an estimated 8,000–10,000 households residing in the neighborhood as of January.

Explosive hazard contamination continues to impede humanitarian access and pose risks to returnees in Ar Raqqah city. During the month of January, blasts from explosive hazards resulted in a weekly average of 50 casualties in the city, according to the UN. In total, explosive hazards killed more than 250 civilians and injured nearly 570 additional individuals between October 2017 and January 2018. Clearance operations continue in the city, focusing on key infrastructure such as main roads and administrative buildings.

Humanitarian access in Dayr az Zawr remains limited due to military operations, particularly in areas under Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) control. In addition, airstrikes in Dayr az Zawr continue to kill and injure civilians. On January 24, airstrikes killed at least 15 civilians in the governorate’s Al Sha’fa town. Furthermore, approximately 13 civilians died due to explosive hazards in Dayr az Zawr during the week of January 29.

A 46-truck UN, ICRC, and SARC interagency humanitarian convoy reached Eastern Ghouta’s Douma town from the capital city of Damascus on March 5, delivering emergency food assistance to more than 13,700 people, as well as health and nutrition supplies, according to the UN. However, SARG officials removed an estimated 70 percent of medical supplies—including trauma kits, dialysis supplies, and insulin—from the cross-line convoy during inspection prior to arrival, the UN reports. ICRC notes that SARG authorities allowed some urgent care medical supplies and primary health care medicines to remain in the convoy. In addition, 13 of the convoy’s 46 trucks were only partially unloaded due to insecurity during the time of offloading; as a result, nearly 13,800 people did not receive food assistance, the UN reports. On March 9, the 13 trucks arrived in Eastern Ghouta and relief staff unloaded and delivered the remaining commodities to reach the planned caseload of 27,500 people, international media report.

The early March delivery represents the first convoy to reach Eastern Ghouta since the February 24 UNSC resolution. The last humanitarian convoy allowed to enter the besieged region arrived on February 14, delivering food, health, and nutrition supplies for approximately 7,200 people to the region’s Nashabiyeh town. Combined, the contents of the two most recent convoys to Eastern Ghouta were sufficient to meet the needs of only 9 percent the region’s population of approximately 393,000 people. Prior to February, a humanitarian convoy last reached Eastern Ghouta in November 2017, according to the UN.

On March 1, an ICRC and SARC convoy reached Afrin, according to ICRC. The convoy included approximately 430 MT of emergency relief commodities—including blankets, food, hygiene kits, mattresses, medical supplies, water purification tools, and winter clothing—sufficient for 50,000 people. ICRC notes that humanitarian conditions in Afrin and areas near the Syria–Turkey border have deteriorated since the January 20 launch of Operation Olive Branch. While international media report that the GoT does not intend to suspend Operation Olive Branch during the UNSC-mandated 30-day ceasefire, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock noted that GoT authorities have emphasized willingness to facilitate humanitarian access to Afrin and surrounding areas.

According to an early February Protection Cluster assessment, bombardments, the advance or expected advance of SARG forces, a lack of basic services, and concerns from unexploded ordnance represented the primary reasons newly displaced people fled areas of origin in Aleppo, Hamah, and Idlib to areas of relative safety in Aleppo and Idlib. IDPs reported leaving with little or no belongings and experiencing illness due to inclement weather and injuries due to conflict. The assessment indicated that IDPs chose their destinations based on availability of employment opportunities, proximity to friends and family, and access to humanitarian assistance and physical safety.

From February 8–15, protection organizations distributed dignity kits, provided psychological first aid and psychosocial support, and conducted risk education activities to an estimated 5,300 people—including approximately 1,330 women and 3,100 children—in Aleppo and Idlib, the UN reports.

Intensified military operations, particularly in Afrin, Aleppo, Eastern Ghouta, Idlib and Dayr az Zawr, have directly impacted health response activities, as more than 50 percent of public hospitals and public health care facilities in Syria are either closed or partly functioning, according to the Health Cluster.

On March 5, armed actors entered a Syrian American Medical Society Foundation (SAMS)-supported hospital in Idlib’s Ma’arrat Al-Nu’man sub-district and took control of the facility. Health staff subsequently evacuated the hospital, although the group vacated the facility after several hours, allowing hospital staff to return. From February 18–25, SARG airstrikes hit at least 26 health facilities—destroying eight of the facilities and rendering and additional five of the facilities inoperable—in Eastern Ghouta, according to a health organization. More than 1,060 critically ill people required medical evacuation from the region as of February due to limited health care services, the Health Cluster reports. Health organizations continue to advocate for unhindered access to provide life-saving assistance to conflict-affected populations, including the evacuation of critically ill patients.

In early February, health facilities in Idlib’s Dana and Ma’arrat Al-Nu’man towns and Idlib city recorded 30–50 percent increases in patient caseloads, according to the Health Cluster. To reduce congestion at health care centers and reach additional patients, relief organizations—including USAID/OFDA partners—deployed mobile health teams to locations with significant IDP populations, providing an average of 500 consultations per day and vaccinating 700 children against diseases from January 31–February 7. During the same period, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) transported medical supplies, sufficient for more than 188,000 treatments, to be distributed across 70 health facilities in northwestern Syria. In addition, humanitarian organizations provided water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services—such as distributing hygiene kits; constructing latrines and showers; and conducting solid waste management, water storage, and water trucking activities—to approximately 74,000 IDPs in nearly 90 locations throughout northwestern Syria from January 14–February 7, according to the WASH Cluster.

Relief organizations in Afrin reported the need for additional health care resources in mid-February, particularly in the district’s Robar and Al Shahba camps, in order to appropriately respond to the current and anticipated health needs of displaced populations. Health care capacity in Afrin remains a challenge amid increasing population displacement and humanitarian needs resulting from Operation Olive Branch. According to the UN, only five hospitals were operational in Afrin District as of mid-February, all of which are located in Afrin town.

In January, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) provided water purification tools to more than 12.3 million people and 60 million liters of safe drinking water to approximately 153,000 people in six governorates—Aleppo, Dar’a, Dayr az Zawr, Al Hasakah, Latakia, and Ar Raqqah. In addition, the UN agency provided WASH items and emergency relief commodities to approximately 80,000 people. Moreover, through continuous efforts to improve and sustain access to water and sanitation infrastructure, UNICEF rehabilitated WASH facilities in six schools, benefiting more than 3,300 children.

The siege of Eastern Ghouta has increased basic commodity prices and limited the availability of bread and other staple foods in the region. From February 13–26, sugar prices increased by 34 percent, bread prices increased by more than 30 percent, and rice prices increased by more than 15 percent, according to a relief organization. On February 19, SARG airstrikes hit bakeries, dairy factories, and food commodity warehouses in Eastern Ghouta’s Hammoura, Kafr Batna, Mesraba, and Saqba towns, the relief organization reports. USAID/FFP partner the UN World Food Program (WFP) notes that increased prices and dwindling availability of food commodities due to restricted commercial access and destruction of remaining stocks are diminishing purchasing power and reducing resilience capacity against future shocks.

In January, WFP delivered emergency food assistance to nearly 2.4 million people—representing more than 80 percent of the UN agency’s January caseload—in 11 governorates, including via cross-border operations from Jordan and Turkey. Access constraints to besieged and hard-to-reach areas and a January 7–February 15 suspension of UN operations in northeastern Syria due to disputes between the SARG and the Autonomous Administration—a Democratic Union Party-affiliated governance body presiding over parts of northern Syria—contributed to deliveries falling below planned levels for the month

Between January 1–February 15, WFP and other food security organizations provided ready-to-eat (RTE) rations for approximately 125,000 people. WFP has also pre-positioned RTE rations in Idlib sufficient to meet the needs of approximately 200,000 people.

In addition, WFP continued to provide nutrition support to children and pregnant and lactating women across the country. The UN agency transported nutrition commodities to prevent acute malnutrition for more than 52,500 children in January. Furthermore, WFP provided cash-based assistance to more than 20,000 pregnant and lactating women, enabling the purchase of fresh food, including dairy products, fruits, meat, and vegetables, in Aleppo, Hamah, Homs, Latakia, Rif Damascus, and Tartus governorates.

During the first week of February, nutrition organizations mobilized eight mobile clinics and 46 teams of community health workers to camps and reception centers in Idlib districts with significant IDP populations. The teams screened more than 3,600 children younger than five years of age for malnutrition and treated 77 children for moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) and 16 children for severe acute malnutrition. The health workers also provided approximately 3,100 children with specialized nutrition commodities. In addition, the teams reached nearly 1,000 pregnant and lactating women with counseling on infant and young child feeding practices and screened approximately 900 pregnant and lactating women for malnutrition, referring 139 MAM cases specialized health facility for further treatment.

The most effective way people can assist relief efforts is by making cash contributions to humanitarian organizations that are conducting relief operations. A list of humanitarian organizations that are accepting cash donations for disaster responses around the world can be found at www.usaid.gov/crisis/syria.

The USG encourages cash donations because they allow aid professionals to procure the exact items needed (often in the affected region); reduce the burden on scarce resources (such as transportation routes, staff time, and warehouse space); can be transferred very quickly and without transportation costs; support the economy of the disaster-stricken region; and ensure culturally, dietary, and environmentally appropriate assistance.

Last updated: March 29, 2018

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