The Syria INGO Regional Forum, comprising 73 INGOs responding to the Syria crisis, expressed deep concern at the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation since Turkey’s military operation started on October 9. The UN estimates that more than 200,000 people have been displaced, and is planning to support up to 400,000 people with assistance and protection in the coming period.
Over three days, Hasakeh city saw an estimated 60,000 new arrivals as a result of the violence, while hostilities in the area also damaged the main water station, leaving it out of service. 400,000 people, including 82,000 people in Al Hol and Areesha camps, now rely on the provisional solution of pumping water from a nearby dam that can only meet 50% of the needs previously supplied by the main water station. This water, which is of poorer quality, is only sufficient to support Hassakeh city for approximately 10-15 days. This leaves the population exposed to outbreaks of infectious diseases, especially as acute diarrhea and typhoid were already two of the most reported illnesses in northeast Syria in August 2019.
To date, the most intense attacks have been on Tal Abyad, Ras al Ain and Quamishly. The use of air strikes and artillery in those areas, and in particular, the October 13 attack on a convoy of civilians fleeing Tal Abyad, raise serious concerns that civilians have been targeted, which may amount to serious violations of international humanitarian law. Overall, the use of explosive weapons in populated areas has led to mass forced displacement and disproportionate damage to vital civilian infrastructure. With the recently renovated hospital in Ras al Ain again out of service and three health care providers in Tal Abyad rendered non-functional, people in the most affected areas have no access to lifesaving support.
SIRF is concerned that several major humanitarian facilities fall within the 30 kilometer border area in which Turkey has established a growing military presence, such as Mabrouka camp (which had 3,170 residents) and Ain Issa camp (12,901 residents). Mabrouka camp has largely been evacuated and is no longer accessible. The majority of its residents relocated to Areesha camp, but several families were unable to leave and now have no access to food, water or shelter.
While the need for humanitarian aid has dramatically increased, the operation has forced many INGOs to suspend service delivery. In the last few days, SIRF members lost access to their offices in Ain Issa, 50 kilometers from the Turkey-Syria border, after the town came under the control of Turkish-backed armed groups. The local organizations that are continuing to deliver assistance face increasingly difficult circumstances and risks to their safety.
Many Syrian humanitarian workers, including the staff of local organizations, fear for their lives and the lives of their families, as they are unable to seek safety in government-controlled areas inside Syria or in neighboring countries. Humanitarian organizations report widespread displacement of Syrian staff, as well as concerns about increased restrictions on their freedom of movement due to risk of conscription.
With humanitarian access already compromised, any further sudden shifts of control or shifts in the presence of troops could further destabilize the area and the routes that humanitarian organizations currently rely on to reach people in need. In light of the recently announced political agreement between Kurdish authorities and the government of Syria, we call on relevant authorities to make continued access for humanitarian organizations a priority.
The people of northeast Syria have already endured years of conflict, with many being repeatedly displaced, and have suffered unimaginable physical and psychological distress. SIRF is very concerned that many of these civilians are now forced to flee south and may have to seek refuge in areas that are heavily contaminated with explosive ordnance. Areas that were retaken from Islamic State, like Raqqa, are littered with improvised explosive devices and landmines.
The Syria INGO Regional Forum is also concerned that one of the objectives of the military operation is to facilitate the return of large numbers of refugees. SIRF notes that most of the refugees in Turkey do not originate from areas Turkey is seeking to control, and reminds Turkey of its obligation to the respect the principle of non-refoulement.
SIRF believes that urgent action is needed and calls for:
- all parties to the conflict to fulfill their obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law and refrain from targeting civilians and humanitarian workers, as well as to exercise restraint in order to protect water supplies, health facilities, schools and camps for displaced people;
- all parties to the conflict to immediately cease hostilities and start urgent dialogue, supported by the international community
- all parties to the conflict to stop the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas in compliance with international humanitarian law;
- all parties to the conflict and the international community to ensure that freedom of movement and humanitarian access are guaranteed;
- all parties to investigate possible violations of international humanitarian law, especially unlawful attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, and to ensure those responsible are held to account;
- the UN Security Council to renew Resolution 2165 to facilitate the provision of humanitarian aid in northeast Syria;
- donor governments to be ready to provide the required level of flexible, emergency funding and assist humanitarian actors to respond effectively.
On October 9, after nearly a decade of nation-wide conflict, a Turkish-led incursion entered northeast Syria, reigniting the cycle of violence, trauma, worry and uncertainty for people living in the area. Once again, civilians are the first victims of bombings.
Humanity & Inclusion is deeply concerned about the safety of civilians and humanitarian aid workers. Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, Humanity & Inclusion's teams have been working tirelessly with Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq. Our rehabilitation experts provide vital care—physical therapy, psychosocial support, mobility devices, etc.—to injured Syrian civilians and those with disabilities.
When war comes to cities, civilians need your help. Today, more than ever, your support is essential. Make a gift today.
Statement | Military incursion in northeast Syria: protection of civilians and humanitarian workers is vital
October 10, 2019—After nearly a decade of nation-wide conflict, the Turkish incursion into northeast Syria reignites the cycle of violence, worry and uncertainty for people living in the area. Humanity & Inclusion is deeply concerned about how the military escalation will affect the civilian population. Humanity & Inclusion calls on all parties to the conflict to protect civilians, especially people in populated areas that are being attacked with airstrikes and artillery.
According to UN OCHA, at least 1,650,000 people in the northeast are in need of humanitarian assistance. With humanitarian organizations on the ground already reporting the interruption of vital services, including medical facilities and water supplies, people’s access to humanitarian assistance is expected to deteriorate while the number of people in need is expected to increase if the violence continues.
A 3-mile strip along the border between Turkey and Syria is currently seeing the most incessant attacks. It is home to an estimated 450,000 civilians, of which 90,000 people are internally displaced. The United Nations reports that more than 64,000 people in the border region fled their homes looking for safety within the first 12 hours of the offensive, and humanitarian organizations on the ground underscore the increased need for humanitarian assistance both in and outside of the 3-mile zone.
Moreover, some populated areas, Tal Abiyad, Ras el Ain, Quamishly and others, were targeted with explosive weapons, predominantly in the form of airstrikes and artillery. The majority of explosive-weapon related casualties in populated areas are civilians, and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas leads to forced displacement and disproportionately damages vital infrastructure, which has devastating effects on people’s ability to safely access humanitarian services, livelihood opportunities and, for example, education long after the end of hostilities.
The ongoing offensive could significantly weaken the network of already scarcely available primary services, and makes it even more difficult for people in need to reach humanitarian services. As stated by a humanitarian worker in the field: "I work in the humanitarian sector to provide aid to those in need. When the conflict started yesterday evening, I could not reach the office due to severe clashes and shelling. Being blocked from working put me far from my ambition to respond to the needs of the people living in my area, and to provide real support to my family, friends and colleagues."
Humanity & Inclusion believes that urgent action is needed to ensure that the humanitarian situation in northeast Syria does not deteriorate further:
- the UN Security Council and international community should insist on an immediate ceasefire, knowing that the delivery of humanitarian assistance, including civilians' access to humanitarian assistance, is severely obstructed by any type of violence;
- all parties to the conflict and the international community should ensure the protection of civilians and humanitarian workers, and ensure that freedom of movement and humanitarian access are guaranteed to all civilians in northeast Syria;
- all parties to the conflict should stop the use of explosive weapons with wide areas effects in populated areas, and the targeting of any civilian infrastructure like hospitals, schools and markets.
Humanity & Inclusion's Humanitarian Policy Coordinator for Syria is available for comment
About Humanity & Inclusion
Co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Humanity & Inclusion is an independent international aid organization. It has been working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster for 37 years. Working alongside people with disabilities and vulnerable groups, our action and testimony are focused on responding to their essential needs, improving their living conditions and promoting respect for their dignity and basic rights. Since it was founded in 1982, Humanity & Inclusion has set up development programs in more than 60 countries and intervenes in numerous emergency situations. There are eight national associations within the network (Germany, Belgium, Canada, United States, France, Luxembourg, UK and Switzerland), working tirelessly to mobilize resources, co-manage projects and increase the impact of the organization’s principles and actions. Humanity & Inclusion is one of six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, and winner of the 2011 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize. Humanity & Inclusion takes action and campaigns in places where “living with dignity” is no easy task.
New report (September 2019) shines light on urgent needs of victims in Syria
- a link to full “The waiting list” report, which was shared with delegates to the Vienna Conference (pdf)
- a link to the summary version “The waiting list” report (pdf)
- a link to an overview document of the types of injuries caused by explosive weapons (pdf)
Relevant Humanity & Inclusion reports about the civilian harm and displacement caused by explosive weapons used in populated areas can be found here.
Civilians at risk as violence escalates and humanitarian work is suspended
Civilians in northeast Syria are at risk and humanitarian aid could be cut off following the launch of a new military operation in the area, leading aid agencies are warning.
Reports from humanitarian responders on the ground say civilians are already on the move and that some vital services have been interrupted, including medical facilities and water supplies. Agencies say that some of their staff have fled with their families, while others are on lockdown.
An estimated 450,000 people live within 5km of the Syria-Turkey border and are at risk if all sides do not exercise maximum restraint and prioritize the protection of civilians. The population includes more than 90,000 internally displaced people, who have already been forced to flee their homes at least once in Syria’s unrelenting war.
According to UN OCHA, there are at least 1,650,000 people in need of humanitarian assistance in northeast Syria. The life-saving humanitarian response will be threatened if instability forces aid agencies to suspend or relocate their programming and staff, as is already happening. With an ongoing major crisis in Idlib and huge needs across the country, the aid response in Syria is already stretched to breaking point.
The 15 aid agencies are urging parties to the conflict to fully respect International Humanitarian Law and ensure that they refrain from using explosive weapons in populated areas. They must ensure all measures are taken to protect civilians and facilitate safe, unhindered humanitarian access. People living in the area affected by this military action have the right to freedom of movement and must not be forcibly displaced from their homes.
Likewise, there must be no forcible returns of refugees living in Turkey to Syria. Anyone returned could face threats to their safety and security, continued internal displacement and reliance on humanitarian assistance that the international community is not in a position to provide. According to the Government of Turkey, an estimated 83 per cent of the three million Syrians in Turkey do not originate from the northeast.
The international community has an important role to play in helping to resolve this crisis. The UN Security Council, which is expected to discuss the situation today (October 10, 2019), must emphasize the need for restraint and reiterate importance of protecting civilians and facilitating unimpeded humanitarian operations.
The security situation in the area is already fragile, with tens of thousands of fighters and their families being held in camps and detention centers. All children must be protected and provided humanitarian assistance, and countries of origin should take immediate steps to repatriate the estimated 9,000 children from at least 40 different nationalities who are in northeast Syria.
Urgent action is needed to ensure that the humanitarian situation in northeast Syria does not worsen further, with potentially dire consequences for families and children who find themselves once again caught up in deadly violence.
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Millions of families have been forced to abandon their homes after years of conflict and violence. In places like Yemen, Iraq, and Syria, people struggle to stay alive in their communities, until they have no other choice but to flee.
This month marks two anniversaries that no one is celebrating: Four years of conflict in Yemen and eight in Syria.
- An estimated 190,350 Yemenis have fled to neighboring countries
- More than 280,000 people are seeking refuge in Yemen
- An estimated 400,000 Syrians have been killed, according to the United Nations
- As of December 2016, 4.81 million Syrians have fled the country
- 6.3 million Syrians are displaced internally
- More than 10 million Syrians are exposed to the risk posed by explosive remnants of war
- 2.1 million Iraqis displaced inside the country
- More than 360,000 Iraqis displaced, living in unfinished and abandoned buildings
Humanity & Inclusion provides emergency care to people with disabilities and injuries living in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen. Every day, our teams meet beneficiaries who share horrifying stories of bombs, torture, terror, and escape. But we take stock of their strength. Their survival. And together we set new goals. We celebrate new victories, however small.
Abdelkrim, 60, from Homs, Syria
"One day, while I was in front of the house, I saw planes in the sky. I thought I saw an unmanned aircraft in the middle of reconnaissance. Then it launched a missile that exploded in the street. Shrapnel came into my left leg." Abdelkrim bandaged his leg and when he finally made it to a doctor, he was told it had to be amputated due to infection. Today, Abdelkrim is recovering thanks to the rehabilitation care he receives from Humanity & Inclusion's team in Jordan. "I wish the war would end and that everyone could return in peace and security."
Warda's family, from Iraq
In February 2017, Warda and her family were caught in an explosion as they were fleeing Mosul, Iraq. After having both of her legs amputated, the young woman recovered in a hospital on the outskirts of the city, with her husband and daughter, who were also injured. Humanity & Inclusion's rehabilitation team provided Warda and her family with psychological support and physical therapy.
Yesser, 12, from Yemen
Yasser was doing homework next to his father when they were both struck by an explosion. Yasser lost his leg and his father did not survive. Today, Yasser receives rehabilitation care from Humanity & Inclusion's team in Yemen.
Wafa, 42, from Homs, Syria
"The planes attacked the city and sent bombs without any mercy to the families and innocent children who still lived there." In July 2012, three bombs fell on Wafa's house. During the attack, Wafa broke her left leg. "When I came out of the coma, my burns and my leg were terribly painful. But this pain was nothing compared to what I felt when I learned that four of my children had died. I could not protect them." Today, Wafa receives rehabilitation care from Humanity & Inclusion's team in Jordan.
Ali, 1, from Iraq
In April 2017, Ali and his family were used as human shields in Mosul, Iraq. Caught in a bombing, Ali was severely injured and his parents and brother were killed. The young boy receives rehabilitation care from Humanity & Inclusion's team in Iraq. Our team also provides his aunt and uncle, who are taking care of him, with advice on how to help Ali with physical therapy exercises.
Kamal, 15, from Dera'a, Syria
"I woke up with shards of glass all over my body and the bedroom door had collapsed on me. The air was dusty. My brother was trying to take me to my mother's room, but I could not hold onto both of my legs." The family manages, with difficulty, to bring Kamal to the nearest hospital: "My whole body was covered with blood. I was operated on briefly at first, then I had two operations to both my hand and my legs. I've never used weapons, and yet it was me that was bombed. I feel only sadness. When you do not feel safe in your own country, where can you be?" Today, Kamal receives rehabilitation support from Humanity & Inclusion in Jordan.
Ali, 20, from Syria
In 2013, Ali lost the use of his legs after being seriously injured in a bombing in Syria. The young Syrian refugee now lives with his family in a makeshift camp in the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon. Humanity & Inclusion's rehabilitation team has been helping him adapt to his disability through physical therapy.
Having spent years living in war zones and then as refugees in foreign countries, many Syrians with disabilities have gone without physical therapy, psychological support, and other vital medical care for long periods of time. Without proper care, disabilities and impairments become more severe and difficult to treat. That’s why Humanity & Inclusion continues to seek out Syrian refugees in countries like Lebanon and connect them with rehabilitation services.
The organization helps people like Bayan, 13, and her two brothers, who all have cerebral palsy. Her family fled the war in Syria two years ago and now live in the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon. HI covers the cost of the children's rehabilitation sessions. The family could not afford this sort of care before.
"Physical therapy is the most important thing for my children,” says Aisha, Bayan’s mother. “Without it, their condition will get worse and worse. This is the first time Bayan’s ever had this type of treatment. Unfortunately, because she didn’t receive treatment earlier, she’ll never walk again. But it might not be too late for her brothers.”
The whole team at the rehabilitation center is involved in caring for the three children and each is showing gradual signs of improvement. Bayan's mother and her children also receive mental health counseling. Aisha participates in self-help group to give mothers the chance to talk through the challenges they face every day.
Your tax-deductible gift will help Syrians with injuries or disabilities as well as those displaced by the violent conflict. Since the beginning of the crisis, Humanity & Inclusion professionals are assisting Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq. We are providing urgently needed emergency rehabilitation care, distributing walking aids, and supporting hospitals in the care of wounded civilians.
Please, join us in supporting the innocent victims of this devastating civil war. By making a gift now, you are giving them new hope for a better future.
Humanity & Inclusion is co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for our work to ban landmines, the 1996 Nansen Prize for our work with refugees, and the 2011 Hilton Humanitarian Prize, the world’s largest humanitarian prize, for our work in Haiti after the earthquake.
*Any funds raised beyond the needs of our emergency response will be used to support other vital programs in the region and around the world.Donate
For Syrian refugees with disabilities in Lebanon, receiving mental health care in addition physical rehabilitation is vital to recovery. Since June 2017, Humanity & Inclusion has partnered with the Mousawat Rehabilitation Center in the Beqaa Valley to provide children with disabilities and their families with mental health care.
Children at the center have access to comprehensive rehabilitation services including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and psychosocial support. Every week, the mental health and rehabilitation staff meet to discuss their patients’ cases and how they can provide a holistic treatment plan.
The center also offers parents psychological support, including a parental support group. At the start of the project, parents were reluctant to speak with psychologists, for fear of being stigmatized by their community. Today, it has become common for them to request these services.
Currently, about 300 children and their families are treated free of charge thanks to Humanity & Inclusion. The organization focuses mainly on early intervention and follow-up care with the parents. Many families are beginning to return to Syria, so it is important, for example, that parents learn the rehabilitation exercises needed for their child’s treatment so they can continue them in Syria.
Zyad was an athlete in Syria. Then war came and a bomb destroyed his right leg below the knee. Now, the father of three, a refugee in Irbid, Jordan, can barely stand.
The day we met him in Jordan, he couldn’t leave his home. On days like this, Zyad sits in the same position—any movement triggers unbearable pain. Simple, everyday tasks like washing dishes are extremely difficult. He can no longer walk and has to take taxis everywhere—a cost his family cannot bear after losing their home and land in Syria.
No work, no income
Without Zyad’s income, the family struggles to make ends meet. His wife balances caring for her family with work. She provides day-to-day care for Zyad as well as her youngest daughter, who has asthma and tissue damage to her hand from the bombing. The rest of the time she cleans schools to earn money. Her two older sons go from one menial job to another.
Support from HI
A few months ago, Humanity & Inclusion volunteers were visiting Zyad’s neighborhood to identify people with disabilities who needed support. The team was also surveying Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon about the barriers they face in accessing humanitarian aid.
The registered Zyad with the local hospital, where a doctor first suspected that he might have still have bomb fragments in his knee. An x-ray showed a different culprit: arthritis. The cartilage of his knee joint is significantly degraded, causing him great pain.
The doctor prescribed physical therapy sessions—all free (even the transport to the sessions) thanks to donors. The therapy some relief, and he was able to walk on crutches. However, his condition is degenerative, and pain is never far from the surface.
Helping people with disabilities
Zyad has begun informing other people with disabilities about Humanity & Inclusion's work. Today, he’s the organization’s point of contact for identifying and registering people with disabilities in his neighborhood.
The study carried out by HI
A study, carried out by HI and iMMAP, found that one in five Syrian refugees has a disability, and much more needs to be done to connect refugees with disabilities to humanitarian services. You can read the full reports from Jordan and Lebanon.
Download the Report:
This report identifies indiscriminate bombing of civilians as the overriding factor forcing millions of Syrians to flee their homes. Based on interviews with Syrian refugees in July 2016, a document review, and expert interviews, the report identifies the large scale use of explosive weapons in populated areas as the most significant cause of the mass displacement of Syrians.Sign up