The military escalation in northwest Syria is having catastrophic humanitarian consequences. At Thursday’s Humanitarian Task Force meeting in Geneva, Senior Humanitarian Adviser Najat Rochdi expressed her gravest alarm at the rising civilian death toll and the unprecedented number of persons displaced. Recalling the Secretary-General’s call that this man-made humanitarian disaster must stop, Ms. Rochdi reiterated his call for an immediate ceasefire and urged the Task Force members to push for a cessation of hostilities without delay, and to ensure for the protection of civilians, and humanitarian access, among other protection issues.
Airstrikes and shelling continue affecting dozens of communities and villages in Idlib and Hama. Civilians, including children, continue to be killed. At least 11 civilians were killed, seven of them children, and more than 40 people were injured when strikes hit a school in Maaret Masreen in northern rural Idlib on 25 February, according to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
Between 1 and 25 February at least 134 civilians, including 44 children, were killed and 11 medical facilities and 15 educational facilities were either directly hit or affected by nearby strikes in Idlib and Aleppo governorates, according to OHCHR. The surge in hostilities has forced nearly one million people to flee their homes since 1 December, and frontlines are advancing closer to densely populated areas. There are reports of multiple children freezing to death. The needs of civilians in the northwest are exceeding the humanitarian response capacity.
Civilians need immediate safety, protection and a respite from fighting. Ms. Rochdi called on all relevant parties to ensure that all attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure such as medical facilities, schools, markets and sites where displaced people shelter, stop immediately. She also underscored the shared responsibility of the international community to the victims of this conflict.
At the Humanitarian Task Force, Ms. Rochdi also took stock of progress on efforts to reach people in need across Syria, scale up response efforts and to expand humanitarian access in both the northwest and northeast and in Rukban, in Syria’s southeast, close to the border with Jordan. Durable solutions for residents of the Al Hol camp, the overwhelming majority of whom are women and children, remains a pressing concern.