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North-east Syria is experiencing a return of severe violence, unleashed by Turkey’s renewed military offensive. Once again, it is the civilian population in the war-torn country that bears the brunt. The already very tense humanitarian situation has deteriorated.
Huge humanitarian needs
Some 450,000 people live within a 5 km zone along the border with Turkey. They include more than 90,000 internally displaced people, who had already been forced to flee their homes and sought refuge in the north-east. They now face having to flee again from violence and hunger. Food prices are rising fast. Families are desperately buying provisions. The infrastructure in the area, such as roads and power lines, as well as access to hospitals, grain silos and water stations, are badly affected. Schools remain closed.
According to the United Nations, at least 1.8 million people in the north-east of the country are in need of humanitarian assistance. The Syria International NGO Regional Forum (SIRF), a body of 73 international organisations responding to the Syria crisis, including Caritas Switzerland, called on 15 October for comprehensive protection of the civilian population. They have appealed to the parties to the conflict to fully respect International Humanitarian Law and to ensure all measures are taken to facilitate safe, unhindered access for aid organisations to the people in need at all times.
Aid provided by Caritas
The international Caritas network has for many years provided humanitarian aid in north-east Syria and has, in light of the new threats, extended its support. Thus, in five emergency camps in the town of Al-Hasaka, additional aid, including water, food baskets, clothing and hygiene products are being distributed. The local Caritas also ensures that the water tanks in the five camps remain full.
If the fighting continues, those affected will be forced to flee towards the south-west. According to UN estimates, more than 176,000 people have already fled from the border region since the start of the offensive, including 80,000 children. The beginning of winter further aggravates the situation. Many families had to leave everything behind and now urgently need warm clothing. Caritas Switzerland, which has been active with an extensive emergency relief programme in Syria since 2012, is present on the ground in the regions around Aleppo, Homs and Damascus and is ready to respond quickly and flexibly to the people’s most urgent needs.