Idlib, Syria: MSF to scale up its response as tensions reach a new peak

29 Feb 2020

Médecins Sans Frontières is preparing to urgently scale up medical assistance and aid distribution to thousands of people displaced in northwestern Syria - and is asking Turkish authorities to immediately facilitate the movement of MSF staff and essential supplies.

Idlib, Syria: MSF to scale up its response as tensions reach a new peak

Since December, more than 900,000 people have fled conflict in Idlib province in Syria, moving northwards and towards the Turkish border. The primary healthcare centre supported by MSF in Takad (Western Aleppo countryside) had to be moved mid-February to a safe place when the frontline got close, and is now in Deir Hassan camps.

With an influx of displaced people, the Deir Hassan camps are now overcrowded with 120,000 displaced people and where basic services are insufficient and living conditions are dire. © Abdul Majeed Al Qareh / MSF

Since December 1, 2019, more than 948,000 people have been uprooted by indiscriminate bombing and shelling on Idlib province—including medical facilities and schools housing displaced families—according to the United Nations (UN). Forced displacement of this scale has not been seen in nine years of war in Syria.
Most of the displaced people—many of whom have been forced to flee multiple times—are trapped in a small area between the closed Turkish border and advancing Syrian government forces. The camps are overcrowded, and there are not enough tents to accommodate new arrivals, forcing people to sleep in freezing temperature on the street, in abandoned buildings, or under makeshift shelters. Water and sanitation facilities in the camps are inadequate, increasing the risk of water-related diseases, such as acute watery diarrhoea or hepatitis A.

“You have three million people today who are trapped. They are trapped and there is nowhere to be safe. So there is a level of despair of the population feeling completely abandoned. We are facing a human crisis, a humanity crisis.”

Cristian Reynders
MSF project coordinator for northwestern Syria
On February 27, MSF began distributing 300 tons of compressed wood fuel blocks to more than 20,000 people. Distribution will take place over the next two weeks in 23 displacement camps in northwestern Syria to provide a safer alternative to current heating methods. Recently a family of four died of suffocation after burning poor quality fuel to heat their tent. 
People urgently need other essential items to protect them from the cold, such as blankets, mattresses, and warm clothes. MSF teams are currently organizing a supply of tents and relief items for 2,800 families. This comes in addition to MSF  providing nearly 1,000 cubic metres of clean water per day to supply 41,000 people.
MSF plans to significantly scale-up its activities in northwestern Syria in the coming weeks, including distributing essential relief items such as tents, cooking sets, floor mats, and blankets. MSF is also planning to provide trauma care and to reinforce basic healthcare for the displaced. But MSF’s ability to increase its assistance depends on the Turkish authorities facilitating the movement of supplies and international staff to the area across the Turkish border. MSF currently has no international staff present in northwestern Syria and many of its Syrian staff are exhausted and need support after years of working in extremely difficult conditions.
MSF has no permanent presence in Turkey. To be able to scale up our response, MSF asks all relevant Turkish authorities to immediately facilitate the transit of staff and essential supplies into northwest Syria.
Idlib, Syria: MSF to scale up its response as tensions reach a new peak

A family of displaced people in Deir Hassan camp. © Abdul Majeed Al Qareh / MSF