Syria Complex Emergency - Fact Sheet #8 FY18

June 8, 2018

SARG regains complete control of Damascus following military campaign against ISIS-held areas of Al Hajar al-Aswad and Yarmouk

Nearly 12,900 IDPs return to areas of origin in Eastern Ghouta despite destruction and lack of services

WFP delivers food assistance to more than 2.8 million people across Syria in May

On May 21, the Syrian Arab Republic Government (SARG) regained control of southern Damascus’ Al Hajar al-Aswad neighborhood and the adjoining unofficial Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp—the last two areas of Damascus held by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)—bringing Damascus under complete SARG control for the first time since 2011. The UN reports that SARG military operations resulted in at least 60 civilian deaths and widespread destruction of Yarmouk’s infrastructure.

On June 5, State/PRM partner UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) reached Rif Damascus Governorate’s Yalda town for the first time since May 2016. The UN agency delivered life-saving assistance to approximately 2,500 people, including Palestinian refugees and Syrians displaced from Yarmouk camp.

Between May 7 and 17, an estimated 35,600 people evacuated northern rural Homs Governorate as part of a local agreement between armed opposition groups (AOGs) and the SARG and the Government of the Russian Federation (GoRF). On May 30, the first interagency humanitarian convoy since the SARG regained control of the region reached northern Homs’s Talbiseh town and surrounding villages and southern Hamah Governorate’s Tlul Elhomor town, delivering assistance to 105,000 people.

Since late 2017, approximately 175,000 people have returned to Dayr az Zawr Governorate and approximately 132,000 people have returned to Ar Raqqah city, despite continued explosive hazard risks. In response, USAID/FFP partner the UN World Food Program (WFP) has increased assistance for returnees; in April, WFP reached populations in Ar Raqqah city for the first time since 2014, delivering food rations for 30,000 people.

Numbers At A Glance

13.1 million

People in Need of Humanitarian Assistance in Syria

6.6 million

IDPs in Syria

4 million

People Reached per Month by USG Assistance in Syria

5.6 million

Syrian Refugees in Neighboring Countries

3.6 million

Syrian Refugees in Turkey

986,900

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

666,100

Syrian Refugees in Jordan

249,600

Syrian Refugees in Iraq

438,000

Palestinian Refugees in Syria

Humanitarian Funding

To Syria Humanitarian Response
FY 2012 - FY 2018

USAID/OFDA $1,476,130,642
USAID/FFP $2,686,220,280
State/PRM $3,936,067,451
TOTAL $8,098,418,373

 

Central and Southern Syria

On May 21, the SARG concluded military operations against ISIS in southern Damascus’ Al Hajar al-Aswad neighborhood and the adjoining unofficial Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp, according to international media. Approximately 1,600 ISIS militants and family members evacuated to southeastern Syria’s badiyah region prior to the SARG’s recapture of these areas, bringing Damascus and surrounding areas fully under SARG control for the first time since 2011. Meanwhile, the final convoy of approximately 400 Yarmouk evacuees arrived at a northern Hamah reception center on May 22, according to relief agencies.

The UN reports that SARG military operations, which began in mid-April, resulted in at least 60 civilian deaths and destroyed more than 70 percent of Yarmouk’s infrastructure. Following the evacuations, the UN reported that SARG forces and allied militias began looting civilian homes and properties in Yarmouk. Local authorities condemned the looting and requested that SARG officials intervene to prevent further infractions.

Populations displaced from Rif Damascus Governorate’s Eastern Ghouta region continue to return to areas of origin, despite widespread infrastructure destruction and lack of access to basic services in the region, relief organizations report. From May 15–27, nearly 12,900 internally displaced persons (IDPs) returned to the region—primarily Douma, Hammura, and Saqba towns—from collective shelters in other parts of Rif Damascus, according to the UN. More than two-thirds of the 95,000 people displaced to collective shelters in Rif Damascus by SARG military operations in Eastern Ghouta that concluded in mid-March had departed the sites as of May 23, with an estimated 31,000 IDPs remaining in collective shelters. State/PRM partner the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that some IDPs have returned to collective shelters, primarily due to insufficient resources in areas of origin.

Relief agencies continue to support IDPs sheltering in Rif Damascus displacement sites. In May, WFP distributed 15,000 ready-to-eat rations—sufficient to feed approximately 75,000 people—to populations at five sites hosting IDPs from Eastern Ghouta.

Northwestern Syria

During the month of May, attacks by AOGs—particularly the use of vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs)—killed at least 24 civilians, including six children, and injured dozens of individuals in Idlib and Hamah governorates, the UN reports. On June 2, the UN issued a statement condemning indiscriminate attacks against civilians in the two governorates, and imploring all parties to the conflict to adhere to international humanitarian and human rights law, including refraining from targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure.

In late May, local authorities in Aleppo Governorate’s Afrin District and Government of Turkey (GoT) officials opened a crossing in Afrin’s Tell Refaat sub-district, which connects Kurdish-held and GoT-held areas in Afrin, to allow displaced populations to return to areas of origin, according to relief agencies. From May 21–24, as many as 600 vehicles transporting IDPs traveled from Tell Refaat, Mare’ sub-district’s Fafin town, and surrounding areas to Afrin city. Relief organizations report that IDP movements remain limited between designated reception areas, preventing some populations from traveling to areas with improved access to basic services. Operation Olive Branch—the GoT-led military offensive in northwestern Syria that concluded in mid-March—displaced an estimated 137,000 people from Afrin District to Tell Refaat, Fafin, Nabul sub-district’s Nabul and Zahra towns, and surrounding villages, according to the UN.

Between May 7 and 17, an estimated 35,600 people evacuated from northern rural Homs to areas of northern Syria as part of a May 3 agreement between AOGs and the SARG and the GoRF, humanitarian organizations report. Recent population influxes from Homs, as well as from Eastern Ghouta, have overstretched the capacity of at least two reception centers in Aleppo’s Atareb sub-district and Idlib’s Maaret Tamasrin sub-district. Humanitarian organizations, including USAID partners, are responding to needs among recently displaced populations.

The Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) Cluster reports that the number of IDP sites and associated camp populations in northern Syria more than doubled between November 2014 and March 2018, particularly in Aleppo and Idlib, which collectively host more than 2.2 million IDPs in displacement sites and within host communities. The number IDP sites increased from approximately 150 to 340 sites, while the number of IDPs living in camps increased from approximately 175,000 to 440,000 people. The CCCM Cluster reports increasing resource and shelter challenges as IDPs continue to arrive in the region.

Northeastern Syria

Despite continued explosive hazard risks, an estimated 175,000 people have returned to Dayr az Zawr Governorate and approximately 132,000 people have returned to Ar Raqqah city since late 2017, the UN reports. Amid increased returns, humanitarian agencies are scaling up mine risk education programming in Ar Raqqah city, where the average number of explosive hazard-related casualties has decreased from more than 50 casualties per week in December 2017 to approximately 10 casualties per week in May, according to the UN. However, explosive hazard contamination continues to pose risks for returnees throughout northeastern Syria, particularly in Dayr az Zawr, due to insufficient explosive hazard mapping and removal efforts.

Humanitarian access remains a key challenge in Syria, particularly for the 2.1 million people located in UN identified hard-to-reach areas. As of May, only six interagency convoys had reached these areas in 2018, providing assistance to only approximately 169,000 people, the UN reports.

On June 5, an UNRWA convoy reached Rif Damascus’ Yalda town. UNRWA delivered blankets, food assistance, hygiene kits, jerry cans, kitchen sets, and mattresses to approximately 2,500 people, including Palestinian refugees and Syrians displaced from the neighboring Yarmouk camp. The UN agency also provided supplies to a shelter hosting approximately 320 people, and provided medical treatment for 200 patients. The convoy represents UNRWA’s first time accessing Yalda since May 2016.

On May 30, a Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and UN interagency convoy delivered multi-sector humanitarian assistance to approximately 105,000 people in northern Homs’ Talbiseh town and surrounding villages and southern Hamah’s Tlul Elhomor town. While SARG authorities did not permit UN staff to participate directly in the convoy, WFP—through the SARC—provided nearly 21,000 food rations, as well as nutrition supplies for nearly 260 children, the UN reports. The convoy represents the first to reach northern rural Homs since the SARG regained control of northern rural Homs and southern Hamah in early May.

On May 23, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) issued a public statement calling on the SARG to grant the organization unhindered access to deliver critical health care services to populations in Eastern Ghouta. The statement is the organization’s first public appeal to the SARG and reportedly follows the SARG’s continued denial and disregard for MSF requests to access vulnerable populations in SARG-held areas of Syria, according to international media.

On May 14, an interagency UN mission accessed Kafr Batna and Saqba towns in Eastern Ghouta, marking the first interagency mission to the area since the SARG recaptured the region in mid-April. The mission observed extensive damage to infrastructure and protection concerns, including limited freedom of movement, the UN reports. Priority needs in the towns include emergency relief commodities and shelter support. Through its partnership with the SARC, the UN is assisting recent returnees and populations who remained in Eastern Ghouta during the SARG offensive, which concluded in mid-April; however, the SARG had not permitted further UN assistance to the area as of early June. The UN continues to advocate for unimpeded humanitarian access to Eastern Ghouta, which remains dependent on SARG approval.

Between April 25 and 29, the UN facilitated a convoy transporting humanitarian cargo from Iraq to Syria through the Yaroubia border crossing. The convoy marked the second cross-border humanitarian delivery through Yaroubia since the July 2014 adoption of UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2165 and subsequent renewals, which authorize cross-border assistance into Syria via four approved crossings. The UN facilitated the first humanitarian convoy at Yaroubia from March 7–8.

Armed actors continue to target health facilities in Syria, according to the UN. More than 90 attacks on health facilities in Syria resulted in 89 deaths and injured 135 people between January and April, the UN reports. Additionally, on May 12, a VBIED detonated in the vicinity of Idlib Hospital, killing nine civilians and injuring 25 others, according to the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations.

Access to primary health care has improved in Ar Raqqah city in recent months, according to the UN. In late April, a health care center providing routine vaccination services opened in the city. In addition, a new private hospital offering surgeries and maternal and obstetric care opened on April 29, marking the fourth hospital to open in the city since October 2017.

Health organizations recorded more than 380 cases of acute diarrhea—including at least five related deaths—in Dayr az Zawr between March 10 and May 23, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) reports. WHO continues to investigate the cause of the cases, as 14 of 18 samples tested positive for E. coli; to date, no cases have tested positive for cholera. In response, WHO is coordinating with local authorities and humanitarian agencies to strengthen disease surveillance systems and expand water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) interventions in affected areas, including distributing water purification tablets and increasing water quality monitoring.

During April, USAID/OFDA partner the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) provided access to safe drinking water for approximately 13.6 million people throughout Syria through the distribution of water purification tablets and water trucking activities. The UN agency also supported the rehabilitation of WASH infrastructure in service centers, camps, and shelters, benefitting more than 285,000 people during the month.

In addition, UNICEF provided primary health care consultations to approximately 354,000 women and children through static and mobile health clinics and screened approximately 85,000 children and pregnant and lactating women (PLW) for acute malnutrition in April. During the same period, UNICEF treated nearly 540 children experiencing acute malnutrition, provided micronutrient nutrition assistance to nearly 287,000 children and PLW, and counseled approximately 43,000 PLW on infant and young child feeding practices.

Relief organizations are providing emergency protection services to affected populations displaced from Afrin District and Eastern Ghouta. Between January 20 and April 30, humanitarian agencies provided psychosocial support services to more than 19,700 children and 400 adults in Aleppo’s Tell Refaat sub-district and Nabul and Zahra towns, according to UNHCR. Mobile teams also distributed dignity kits, provided reproductive health services, and offered psychosocial support services to recently displaced populations. In addition, between April 20 and May 7, relief organizations provided psychological first aid, psychosocial support, and mine risk education to more than 2,700 IDPs from Eastern Ghouta sheltering in temporary reception centers and host community members in Aleppo’s Al-Bab, Afrin, Azaz, Jabal Saman, and Jarablus districts, UNHCR reports.

In May, WFP delivered food assistance to support more than 2.8 million people across all of Syria’s 14 governorates.

Despite access challenges, WFP distributed 6,000 family food rations (FFRs)—sufficient for 30,000 people for 30 days—in Al Mahdi, Al Mansour, and Rashidiyeh neighborhoods of Ar Raqqah city in April, marking the first WFP distribution in the city since 2014. Additionally, WFP distributed 14,700 FFRs—sufficient to feed 73,500 people—to vulnerable populations in several rural areas surrounding Dayr az Zawr’s Al Mayadin city and Dayr az Zawr city.

In April, the national average price of a standard food basket was SYP 23,894, or $46.40—comparable to prices reported in March and 29 percent lower than prices reported in April 2017, according to WFP. Since January, WFP has reported a general decrease in the cost of staple food items, particularly bread, lentils, sugar, rice, and vegetable oil, as a result of stabilized security conditions in some areas and the re-opening of key trade routes.

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: June 11, 2018

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