Syria: Civilians in urgent need of safety and life-saving assistance amidst unprecedented displacement

25 February 2020
Syria: Civilians in urgent need of safety and life-saving assistance amidst unprecedented displacement
A group of displaced Syrians sit in an underground shelter in the Taltouna village, 17kms northwest of the city of Idlib, Syria. YAHYA NEMAH/EPA

Geneva (ICRC) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is deeply alarmed by the rapidly deteriorating security and living conditions of the hundreds of thousands of newly displaced civilians in the Idlib area, who are running out of options to find basic safety for themselves and their families.

“This is the worst wave of displacement we’ve seen during the Syrian conflict. Amid the harsh winter conditions in Idlib, we see people trapped, isolated and running out of ways to cope. It’s completely unacceptable,” said Fabrizio Carboni, the ICRC's Geneva-based director for the Near and Middle East.

Deteriorating access to medical care and essential supplies for civilians in the Idlib area creates life-threatening situations that have already led to preventable deaths. Reduced access to health care, poor living conditions and difficulties moving locations are among the major humanitarian consequences of the Idlib hostilities.

“We urge the parties involved to allow civilians to move to safety, either within the areas they control or across the front lines. This safeguards their lives, dignity, health, and well-being,” Carboni said.

Vulnerable groups such as the elderly and the disabled have been hit particularly hard by the lack of essential goods and services. Infants deprived of essential nutrients for healthy growth can suffer life-long consequences. The daily reality of cold, wet and snowy weather is compounding the conditions that create serious harm.

If civilians must flee for safety reasons, all possible measures must be taken to ensure that members of the same family are not separated and that everyone is relocated under satisfactory conditions of shelter, hygiene, health, safety, and nutrition.

Civilians and civilian objects are protected against direct attack in compliance with international humanitarian law. Mortars and rockets should not be indiscriminately fired into populated areas on either side of the front lines as indiscriminate attacks are prohibited. Hospitals, markets, and schools must not be attacked.

With the ongoing fighting and shifting frontlines, access for humanitarian workers/volunteers is challenging and risky. However, if the situation allows, the ICRC together with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) reiterates their readiness to increase their humanitarian response. We urge all parties to provide us with access and security guarantees, so they can adequately respond to the needs of people on both sides of the frontlines.

For media queries:

Ingy Sedky, ICRC Syria spokesperson
Whatsapp only: +963 993177769

Sarah Alzawqari, ICRC Regional Spokesperson for the Middle East and North Africa
Mobile: +961 3 13 83 53

Ruth Hetherington, Near and Middle East Spokesperson, ICRC Geneva +41 79 447 3726