By Akanimo Sampson
Sub-zero temperatures and increased snowfall are currently exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in northwest Syria where more than 250,000 people have been displaced in the past few days and forcing over 80,000 to sleep under trees.
According to the United Nations, more than 830,000 people have been displaced in the region in the last two months and more than 1.2 million since April 2019.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is extremely concerned about this rapid and ongoing rise in displacement which continues to rise in the tens of thousands every day, particularly as conflict spreads northward to highly populated urban areas.
IOM’s Global Shelter Coordinator, Joseph Ashmore, said: “over 80,000 people forced to flee violence in the last few months are sleeping under trees or in open areas in the snow.”
Adding, he said, “hundreds of thousands of people are suffering. Many more people may die as extreme winter conditions take hold, provoking one of the most severe shelter crises the humanitarian system has faced in the last decade.”
The majority of the uprooted are staying with host families, in camps or unfinished buildings. As displacement rises, there are fewer places to house people seeking refuge.
IOM has been assisting partners on the ground to reach nearly 300,000 people with humanitarian aid since mid-December 2019. In the past weeks, IOM’s partners have delivered emergency items – including blankets, hygiene kits and other goods – as well as shelter materials to 129,000 people in need.
However, insecurity has impeded access to some partners – compromising the ability for affected populations to receive the most basic services.
Health centres, schools, markets, and camps have been targeted by violence with increased civilian casualties reported every day.
The Organisation is seeking increased funding from the international community to adequately respond to rapidly rising needs. IOM also reiterates the UN Secretary General’s call for an immediate cessation of hostilities and attacks of civilians and civilian infrastructure.
The Syrian conflict, approaching its tenth year, has displaced more than six million people within the country and provoked more than 5.5 million people to flee to neighbouring countries in the region.