The WHO has warned about a worsening humanitarian situation
Thousands of people in northeast Syria have fled their homes after Turkish bombing over the last week, in what rights groups warn is the largest wave of displacement since Ankara’s incursion into Kurdish-held territory in 2019.
The closure of the main United Nationsaid crossing into the battle-ravaged area has hampered efforts to address the worsening humanitarian crisis. Just a handful of coronavirus testing kits are available at the moment despite the new Omicron variant taking hold, while medical, water, food and farming supplies are also said to be critically low.
The sole civilian border point between Northeast Syria and Iraq was closed in mid-December, meaning those who are sick cannot cross for treatment. Life-saving health supplies are also being held up.
The World Health Organisation sounded the alarm this week about the whole of Syria, saying that renewed fighting across the country has resulted in the displacement of more than 140 000 people in need of emergency health services.
There are particular concerns about the northeast where thousands have fled their homes in renewed Turkish airstrikes this week. Local media has reported that as many as 10 people in the including a baby aged just six months have been killed in the onslaught. The Independent was sent images of injured children.
“The United Nations has said that around 1200 households in the last week have fled Abu Rasin and Tal Tamer. We haven’t seen that many people displaced in this area since the 2019 incursion,” said one official representing the body of international NGOs working in northeast Syria.
“Meanwhile we are also struggling to get essential supplies in.”
“There are shortages of everything from PCR tests to oxygen to PPE. The area is also running out of sugar, concrete, fertilisers, and food security supplies,” the official added.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces run swathes of North-East Syria and has long been locked in a conflict with Turkey.
Ankara regards one of its main components the People’s Protection Units (YPG), as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a Turkey-based Kurdish militant group that has been designated a terrorist group by Ankara and Washington.
In 2019, Turkey launched a cross-border offensive against the SDF and together with Syrian-affiliated militias continues to occupy several Syrian border towns.
A shaky truce was brokered but since the summer Turkish airstrikes and shelling of Syrian border areas have restarted.
The Turkish Ministry of Defence confirmed this week it had “liquidated” eight members of YPG in northern Syria.
In 2020 ,Yarubiya, the only official United Nations aid crossing into the northeast of the country was closed. The December closure of the civilian crossing point into therefore only piled on further pressure.
This comes after northern Syria limped through the worst drought in 70 years which has contributed to the worst harvest on record. There are concerns the area will see pockets of famine in 2022.