Despite a series of agreed ceasefires, fighting in Idlib intensified throughout 2019 and displaced around 400,000 people from April onwards. A further escalation in the conflict, with aerial bombardments and a ground offensive, has displaced 900,000 more people since December alone.
Fleeing families are squeezed into a smaller and smaller area, with the border to Turkey closed and government forces pushing to reclaim territory in Idlib, including major gains along the Western Aleppo front. The pressure on space and resources is increasing. The UN has said civilians here face a ‘daily nightmare’.
Rotary’s project partners in disaster relief, ShelterBox is working with partners to help thousands of families in Idlib province this year. The charity is providing families in northwest Syria with emergency shelter, and household items to keep them warm, more comfortable and able to prepare meals.
Nour, a humanitarian worker in Idlib with ShelterBox’s partner ReliefAid, said: ‘The situation in Idlib is now crazy – thousands of families flee from one area to another to escape the bombing and death, carrying their pain with them. Many families could not escape and were killed; the roads are crowded with displaced people who do not know where to go.
‘One of the families I met said to me: ‘We were in our village and warplanes and canons started bombing houses and everything. We did not know what to do, because we could not escape because of the shelling and we could not stay. We waited until night and the shelling stopped and we ran away from the village quickly. We could not find a car to carry us, we walked on foot a long way until someone helped us. We left everything behind – our village, home, our dreams and everything close to us.
‘The camps are catastrophically crowded. Many families share a single tent, and there is not enough aid provided by organisations due to the large numbers of displaced people. Families did not bring enough with them because they quickly came out to escape death.
‘Me, the team and our families are fine, but we live in constant tension. The situation is getting more difficult by the day. The shells are falling in all regions. Fear is widespread in the air.
‘The biggest fear is that the military operations will continue, because this will lead to a humanitarian catastrophe. The weather is cold and the children are living in a difficult situation, and I fear that the bombing will increase in the areas where the displaced people gather and this will lead to massacres.
‘I hope the world will know the catastrophic situation that people live in here, and help them in all ways.’
At displacement camps served by ShelterBox and ReliefAid, new arrivals are moving into old, abandoned or damaged tents, or having to share with others. Heavy rain and snow has brought flooding; tents battered by the elements are leaking.
In partnership with ReliefAid, ShelterBox are providing families with tarpaulins and rope to reinforce their tents, plus mattresses, carpet and thermal blankets, kitchen sets and solar lights to help make the cold winter more bearable.
More than 250,000 people caught up in the Syrian crisis have already received ShelterBox aid, since their first response to the crisis in December 2012. This makes it the largest and most sustained response in ShelterBox’s 20-year history.
With Rotary support, ShelterBox can do more. To find out more or donate, please visit ShelterBox Website
Your voice is powerful. If your Rotary club are looking to spread the word about ShelterBox’s work in Syria and help raise the vital funds needed to give families much needed blankets and shelter. Visit ShelterBox’s Action Toolkit for inspiration and resources.
Find out more about Rotary’s partnership with ShelterBox here.
* Photographs taken during assessments and distributions by ReliefAid, one of ShelterBox’s partners in Syria.