Beirut, Lebanon, January 12, 2018 — Thousands who have fled their homes to escape airstrikes and fighting in Idlib are now living in dire conditions, warns the International Rescue Committee (IRC). Around 100,000 people have fled Syria's northern Hama province and southern Idlib in recent weeks and some of the most recent arrivals have walked up to seven hours to reach safety, bringing with them only what they could carry.
The IRC is responding in central Idlib and helping hundreds of the new arrivals by providing healthcare and cash so families can pay for food and other essentials. In some locations more than two thirds of those displaced are now living in make-shift tents, in sites lacking toilets. Up to three families are living together in these tents, which are unable to withstand the elements, while others are living in unfinished or abandoned buildings.
Idlib has been designated a so-called ‘de-escalation’ zone and is covered by ceasefire agreements; nearly half the population are people who escaped the war in other parts of Syria. Civilians in Idlib have also been suffering as a consequence of fighting between armed groups, which have on several occasions disrupted aid deliveries. And, despite violence increasing across Syria in 2017, nearly 7,000 Syrians living in the US under temporary protected status since 2012, risk having their legal stay come to an end as the program is at risk of termination.
“We are extremely concerned for the safety of the 2.6 million people living in Idlib if the frontline continues to advance,” said Thomas Garofalo, the IRC’s Middle East Director for Public Affairs. “People have told us that they will have no choice but to uproot themselves once again and head further north. They will be heading to displacement camps that are already far beyond capacity which means their situation will get even worse, in the dead of a wet, cold winter."
The IRC has heard from families of the panic as they fled. “We couldn’t think right — the fear affected our brains,” said the mother of two young children who, panicked by air strikes, initially left one of them behind. Fortunately, she found the child unharmed when she returned.
Those fleeing the fighting travel during the day to avoid car-jackers. Several people traveling on foot injured themselves slipping on mud, resorting to improvised casts created with egg-soaked rags.
The IRC provides healthcare, cash and other vital support in Idlib, and in 2016 reached nearly 400,000 people with aid in the province.
The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 29 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue-uk.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.