North-West Syria: Life in Displacement

 Economic DevelopmentEmergency Response,
 8th Oct 2019

The humanitarian situation for hundreds of women, men and children in northwest Syria continues to deteriorate dramatically as the latest escalation in hostilities is now in its fourth month and people have nowhere to seek refuge. According to the UN, almost 630,000 displacements[1] have taken place since the 1st of May, as people are forced to flee their homes to escape violence and reach essential services needed for their survival. However, those who manage to escape the attacks and reach safe areas near the border with Turkey, still have to face extremely difficult living conditions in the densely-populated areas of northern Idlib governorate, where humanitarian assistance is overstretched.

As more and more people of those who arrive near the Syrian-Turkish border have been displaced multiple times in the previous months or years, their resources have been depleted further, leaving them much more vulnerable. Many people are sleeping in the open or in makeshift camps and have to find ways survive with limited access to food, water and sanitation services and, in many cases, no access to health care. While CARE and the local organizations it partners with in Syria are there providing emergency assistance, we had the chance to talk to some of them and find out how they have been coping while away from home. Here is what they told us.

Mahmoud*, 13 years old, displaced with his family from a village south of Idlib due to heavy shelling.

©Syria Relief

"When bombs started falling from the sky in our village, we left our house running for our lives. All I remember is the voice of my father calling out our names and telling us the bombing will intensify and that we should leave quickly. We came to this camp in northern Idlib, close to the border with Turkey, and settled here. But the camp is suffering from insects and the spread of infectious diseases due to harsh conditions in the area and the overwhelming amount of people who now live here with no access to proper toilets and water. My brothers and I didn't know how to prevent infectious diseases, but thanks to your team, we have received information on how we can best protect ourselves from insect bites and how to take care of our personal hygiene, despite the difficult living conditions. They also distributed personal hygiene baskets containing toothpaste, soap and toothbrushes”.

Ahmed*, displaced in the north of Idlib when they left their home in search of safety.

©Syria Relief

"I was at home when the shelling started in my village. I didn't know what to do. My wife and I got out of the house and saw people running and screaming. I held my wife's hand and gathered my children. We got out of the house and followed the neighbors who were heading north of the village. We left with nothing but the clothes we were wearing – we could not take anything with us. When we reached the northern border of the village, the residents started to go to different places. I asked the neighbors where to go and they told me they were heading to the northern countryside of Idlib because it was safe there. We arrived at the camp and the humanitarian organizations started helping us, distributing mattresses, blankets and food. Our main problem was the lack of water though. Imagine having to walk for three hours every day to provide water to your children. A team from your organization visited the camp and we now have enough water for several days, but everyone can see that no matter what humanitarian organizations are doing, the situation is critical for hundreds of people. For how long we will have to live in these conditions?”

Selim*, 55 years old, father of eight children, displaced from the southern countryside of Idlib.

©Syria Relief

"We left the village. We could only take some belongings and necessary items. We did not have time to take more things. I took my family and headed north like a lot of neighbors. Here at the camp, the situation was good at the beginning, but after a few weeks, as the hostilities continued intensifying, more and more people arrived daily. There is accumulated waste and insects and mosquitoes have increased dramatically. This is dangerous for our health and the spread of disease. Your team has helped to extract the waste from the camp so that it is properly drained and insects are now slowly disappearing, but you understand what this means? That we rely solely on humanitarian assistance to live in dignity and face these kind of problems. We hope that your support will continue in the future as without you, we will be lost”.

While the humanitarian response is ongoing to address the pressing needs of the newly displaced, the majority of whom are women and children, humanitarian needs are growing, as more people flee their homes seeking refuge close to the borders. It is crucial not only to continue but also to scale up the current levels of emergency response in the coming weeks and months. CARE has been working closely with its local partners to provide emergency relief items and has reached more than 280,000 in the current response to date. CARE distributes essential household items, including water buckets, tents for shelter and hygiene kits for women and adolescent girls, as well as new arrival kits with essential items. As the number of those displaced continues to increase and the humanitarian situation deteriorates, CARE will continue to monitor conditions and mobilize further resources to meet the needs of the most vulnerable.


[1] Individual movements, which may be the same person more than once

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