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Humanitarian Aid

Exacerbated suffering  in north-east Syria

So far, an estimated 70,000 people have been newly displaced after the start of Turkey’s military operation Peace Spring in north-eastern Syria. Families flee towards more southern villages, where, amongst others, schools are being used as collective centres. Cordaid’s humanitarian unit is teaming up with local relief agencies to respond in what is one of the most insecure and complex operating environments of the war-torn country.

(view across the border to Syria, © moeffju)

Affected areas along the Syrian-Turkish border include both Syrian Democratic Forces-controlled  and Government-controlled areas. The border area is home to 3 million Syrians, of which at least 1.3 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Difficult to verify numbers and assess needs

“Military operations, insecurity and volatility as well as unconfirmed levels of displacement make it extremely difficult to verify numbers, assess needs and provide assistance”, says Cordaid’s humanitarian aid program manager Margriet Verhoeven. “Indeed, several humanitarian partners have suspended activities due to insecurity”, she continues.

“We are expecting harsh winter conditions. For displaced families who needed to leave their homes and belongings on the spot, this comes as an extra burden.”

Margriet Verhoeven, Cordaid humanitarian aid program manager

UNOCHA’s update of October 10 mentions intense shelling and airstrikes all along the north-east Syrian border. Large numbers of people are on the move from Ras Al Ain district towards more southern villages and cities. Al Hasakeh, one such point of arrival, is reported to have hosted more than 20,000 newly displaced persons.

Map of displacement in the Syrian-Turkish border area (© UN Humanitarian Needs Assessment Programme)

Most of the displaced persons rely on family and friends in areas further away from the border. This makes it difficult to establish accurate figures of displacement. OCHA reports however that schools are being used as reception centres. Five such schools are told to have opened for fleeing families in the city of Al Hasakeh alone.

Tough choices due to limited funds

Cordaid is currently teaming up with its long term Syrian partners who operate in the region. “We didn’t  expect this surge of military violence in the north-east so fast”, says Verhoeven. “The new displacements and their humanitarian implications, come on top of the needs of millions of people who had previously been displaced in the rest of the country. We were – and still are – preparing winterization assistance in places such as rural Damascus. The recent crisis in the north-east is not something we can ignore. We have to act. But having limited funds we need to make tough choices.”

One of Cordaid’s implementing partners is present in the border city of Qamishli as well as in the hosting city of Al Hasakeh. We were told the situation of the team in Qamishli is critical. Staff is seeking shelter inside their homes. Staff in Al Hasakeh does go out, but with the highest caution.

Harsh winter conditions to be expected

“Together, we are assessing needs and preparing plans to respond”, Verhoeven continues. “We are expecting harsh winter conditions. For displaced families who needed to leave their homes and belongings on the spot, this comes as an extra burden. No doubt food, clothes and shelter are among the most urgent needs we need to address”, she concludes.

Read the 10 October UNOCHA Flash update on north-eastern Syria.

Or visit our Cordaid Humanitarian Aid webpage.

 

© Featured image: “View across the border to Syria” by moeffju is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0