Read caption Syrian families fleeing air strikes and shelling in north-east Syria. Photo: Delil SOULEIMAN / AFP NTB Scanpix

Humanitarian crisis unfolds as violence escalates in Syria

Text: Roald Høvring|Published 16. Oct 2019
As thousands of civilians flee air strikes and shelling in North East Syria, aid agencies witness an escalation of the humanitarian crisis.

UN estimates that more than 160,000 people have been displaced so far and believes up to 400,000 people could be displaced in the area if the violence keeps escalating.

While the need for humanitarian aid has dramatically increased, the escalation of violence has forced many international NGOs to temporarily suspend service delivery and reassess their presence and interventions. “If humanitarian services continue to be cut off, the situation could quickly worsen,” says Angelita Caredda, Director of the Syria Response Office for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

"These people are already extremely vulnerable," she says. "There are a lot of camps for displaced people there that are completely dependent on humanitarian services, and if they are cut off, it would put lives at immediate risk."

Seeking safety

Among the immediate protection needs that have been identified is the lack of civil documentation, as many people left their homes without identity papers and other essential belongings. Families have also been separated. Some people need psychological first aid and psychosocial support.

Aid workers and fleeing families speak of the uncertainty and fear gripping the region, where nobody knows what is going to happen next or where might be a safe place to shelter.

“In fact, they have very few options and we’re extremely concerned about their wellbeing. We are concerned that civilians may be forced to flee to areas that are riddled with unexploded bombs or close to active conflict,” says Caredda.

Crossing into Iraq

According to UNHCR, more than 1,000 Syrians have crossed from north-east Syria into neighbouring Iraq since the eruption of violence.

“We fear further displacement and spill over into Iraq where more than 250,000 Syrian refugees have already sought refuge, including 90,000 living in camps relying on humanitarian assistance,” says Caredda.

UNHCR expects up to 50,000 may cross in the next three months who would need to be accommodated in camps and provided with water, food, blankets and other essential aid. NRC and the rest of the humanitarian community in Iraq are ready to support refugees with emergency aid.

NRC is working across Syria and the neighbouring countries to assist displaced Syrians. In 2018 we assisted nearly two million displaced Syrians in the region.