Cologne/Idlib. February 12, 2020.
Malteser International is deeply concerned by the further deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Idlib and West Aleppo, the last major areas controlled by opposition forces and radical Islamic groups in Syria. Since last November, intensified military operations by the Syrian government and its allies to take control of the region has led to unbearable humanitarian consequences for the civilian population there. More than 500,000 people have so far been displaced from their homes as a result, most of them women and children.
“The ceasefire agreement negotiated between Turkey and Russia for the region exists only on paper,” says Janine Lietmeyer, Head of Malteser International’s Middle East Program. “Civilians are fleeing the fighting and aerial bombardments but have nowhere to go as they are boxed in between the airstrikes and a closed Turkish border. Many are fearing acts of revenge by government forces, who consider all civilians living in the area to be affiliated with terrorists.”
Working with two partner organizations in Syria, Malteser International supports a network of hospitals and primary health stations in Idlib, Western and Northern Aleppo. “Two hospitals and two health stations close to the frontlines have had to be evacuated in the last two weeks,” said Lietmeyer. “Our medical personnel has continued to work under risky conditions, not only carrying out emergency surgery in hospitals, but also providing lifesaving health services such as dialysis and therapeutic feeding for malnourished children. These services become inaccessible for the population if health facilities need to be relocated.”
The extent of human suffering in the Syrian conflict is beyond description. In March, nine years will have passed since the war began, and there is no end in sight to the human suffering. Malteser International stresses the urgent need for humanitarian and political action. “The situation is reaching catastrophic levels. This latest wave of displacement is coinciding with the harsh winter season and camp services are already at capacity,” said Lietmeyer. “This will have a negative impact on already vulnerable populations like children, persons with chronic diseases and elderly people. To put it bluntly: People will freeze to death and starve unless the parties to the conflict and the international community bring an end to the situation in Idlib. Further military escalation will only lead to more suffering.”