How OCHA And Partners Are Tackling Humanitarian Nightmare In Syria

1242 views | Akanimo Sampson | October 15, 2019

With ongoing airstrikes and ground attacks in multiple locations as the military operation entered its sixth day, the security situation in north-eastern Syria has remained highly volatile, thus turning the troubled region into a humanitarian nightmare.

The United States announced the planned withdrawal of its troops from northeast Syria on October 13 just as the announcement of an agreement between the Kurdish Self-Administration and the Government of Syria followed shortly after.

Due to the fluid security situation, international NGOs staff who have been working cross-border in the region are relocating. At least 200,000 people are reported to have been displaced following the start of military operations. There are unconfirmed reports of thousands of people on the move as a result of continuing advances of different forces in many areas.

Grave concerns remain for camp residents at Ein Issa displacement camp as hostilities and shelling in the vicinity of the camp has continued. The camp is now at a cross-road between three different forces. About 15 families remain at the Mabruka IDP camp, which was evacuated due to insecurity.

The United Nations continues to advocate for the protection of all IDP camps and guarantees of safe and unhindered passage for those staying behind and for humanitarian actors to reach them with assistance.

On October 14, a technical mission composed of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and members of the Al-Hasakeh electrical and water departments reached Allouk water station to restore water to some 400,000 people.

The team found interim solutions but identified further damages to the system and will need to return to ensure the Allouk water station is operational.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), a UN agency says humanitarian partners continue to provide life-saving assistance in existing displacement camps (except Mabruka due to insecurity) and the most populated camps such as Areesheh and Al Hol.

While efforts are also under-way to assist displaced people in the new collective shelters established in Al-Hasakeh, Tal Tamer and Ar-Raqqa, the UN and its partners are exploring different options to keep the supply line of humanitarian goods open, as they remain concerned about the humanitarian situation in northeast Syria as many of those affected by the on-going hostilities have already experienced immense physical and mental stress as a result of almost nine years of conflict and repeated displacement.

Situation overview

As of October 14, airstrikes, heavy artillery and ground incursions continued in multiple locations as the military operation in northeast Syria entered its sixth day. On October 13, Turkish Armed Forces reportedly gained control over Tell Abiad city and fighting continued in Ras al-Ain city, north and northeast of both Ar-Raqqa city and Ein Issa town.

Latest reports received on October 14 indicate the fighting is moving closer to Tal Tamr where some 3,600 displaced families have reportedly arrived and are hosted at both collective shelters and with host communities. Parts of the M4 highway are now reportedly under Turkish control.

Explosions and shelling in Quamishli city appear to have ceased on October 14 further to numerous incidents reported over the previous days. On October 13, some 5,000 people were reportedly displaced from Ein Issa town towards both the southern rural areas of EinIssa and Ar-Raqqa city as a result of these developments.

Several hundred families also reportedly left Menbij in anticipation of hostilities in the area.

As the military movements in and around Menbij area intensified on October 14, local sources have reported that the crossing into northern Aleppo countryside has been closed for civilians. On both sides of the border, reports and media continue to report civilian injuries and deaths as a result of shelling across the border.

Humanitarian impact

Given the fast-evolving developments on October 13 and 14, the full humanitarian impact of the current military operation remains difficult to ascertain. The United Nations and its partners remain concerned about the humanitarian situation in northeast Syria as many of those affected by the on-going hostilities have already experienced immense physical and mental stress as a result of almost nine years of conflict and repeated displacement.

At the time of reporting, an estimated 2000,000 people have been displaced since the onset of the operation, and additional reports of people on the move continue to be received. As such, the actual number of displaced may be higher. Also, movements remain fluid as most people have been observed seeking alternative accommodation options a few days after arriving at the shelters and therefore moving several times.

To date, most displacements took place from Ras al-Ain and Tell Abiad. For the population along the Syrian/Turkish border who remain in the area, the situation is both dire and unsafe as hostilities continue and humanitarian partners have a limited capacity to respond. 

The protection situation of IDPs and the civilian population remains a critical concern given the evolving situation and increasing displacement. There are immediate concerns for the remaining population in Ein Issa camp. It is imperative that civilians are protected from direct attacks and the effects of hostilities, allowed to move in safety and voluntarily to safe places, with special protection afforded to children, including those formerly and or allegedly to be associated with armed forces or armed groups (CAFAAG).

Safe access of humanitarian actors to these areas to deliver assistance is needed. Grave concerns remain for the civilians at Ein Issa camp, hosting approximately 13,000 people, and where services have been suspended since October 13, including provision of water and bread, as hostilities and shelling in the vicinity of the camp continued throughout the day.

The situation on the ground is highly fluid and latest reports indicate population movements in and out of the camp between October 13 and 14. This could indicate that some people who may have left have returned to the camp. Reports received indicate that both the camp administration and security left the camp on 13 October. The situation at the camp and in the vicinity remains tense. The UN called for protection of the camp, alongside guarantees of safe and unhindered passage for those camp residents wanting to leave for Ar-Raqqa city or other areas of choice.

Further to previous reports on the evacuation of Mabruka IDP camp, some 15 families remain. The United Nations continues to call for the protection of the camp and guarantees of safe and unhindered passage for those left behind without safe transportation to Areesheh IDP camp.

On October 14, a technical mission reached Allouk water station to carry out urgent repairs. The station services over 400,000 people in the area. The technical repair teams of the Local Water Establishment and the General Company of Electricity in Al-Hasakeh governorate–accompanied by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) –were able to access the location and start the repair works in Allouk water pumping station. As the repair works of several spots of the power line were completed, the line was reportedly damaged again, as a result of clashes, at another location close to Ras-Al-Ain.

The teams tried to reach the new location but were not able to due to lack of daylight time. While the teams returned to Al-Hassakeh in the evening, the station remains out of service. Access for the mission was facilitated by all parties active in the area –through an agreement brokered by the UN. A followup mission is now being planned.

Humanitarian teams continue to conduct needs assessments in areas where displaced people arrive to identify priority needs and gaps, with a view to adapt the humanitarian response and the protection services offered as the situation evolves.  Much more is however needed, as there are indications of an insufficient response to meet all new emerging needs, compounded by the evacuation of international staff of cross-border NGOs over the past three days and consequent suspension of activities.

Due to the latest developments, more NGO staff had to withdraw and suspend operations, in what has been a considered process. As of October 14, international NGOs staff are primarily relocating to Erbil and Dohukin Iraq. In light of this, the UN and its partners remain extremely concerned about the safety and security of all of their –hundreds of –Syrian staff.

In Quamishli specifically, the UN maintains restrictions on movement for its staff. Humanitarian actors are committed to stay and deliver –as much as possible –for people in need, minimizing disruptions to services. The UN continues to reiterate this requires all parties to ensure both aid workers, and all civilians, remain protected.

Sector Response

Immediate protection needs identified include civil documentation, (IDPs in camps have not had documents re-turned and IDPs have left homes without documents and other belongings), family separation, psychological first aid, dignity kits and support to persons with specific needs, including elderly and persons with disabilities and serious medical conditions.

Protection partners are continuing assessments in 28 communal/collective shelters in Al-Hasakeh (20), Tal Tamer (8) for a total of 1,025 households and Ar-Raqqa. So far,32 women at risk, 87 elderly in need of support, 17 persons with disabilities, 27 persons with serious medical conditions, 1 unaccompanied child, 115 children at risk have been identified (referrals and individual follow ups are ongoing).

Many families have reportedly settled with the host communities and their needs are also being assessed. Child protection partners are continuing rapid child protection assessments in the communal shelters in Al-Hasa-kehcity.

Partners continue to monitor and document the children for further assistance through case management. Gender-based violence (GBV) mainstreaming is being addressed by GBV partners in all facilities during provision of services and follow-up.

Protection monitoring is ongoing as interim care arrangements by child protection partners is being prepared for the recently evacuated 27 children from Ein Issa camp, from the temporary shelter (where they are hosted now) to a partner’s care centre.

GBV partners have dispatched protection kits, female dignity kits, male dignity kits, adolescent kits, pregnant and lactating women kits and sanitary materials. So far,86 pregnant and lactating kits, 213 adolescent girl kits, 480 sanitary napkins have been distributed by GBV partners.  GBV partners continue providing GBV services integrated with reproductive health services through mobile teams and sexual and reproductive health clinic.

Despite stretched capacity and the ongoing situation protection partners continue to support Community Centres both static and mobile across all IDP sites and in host communities receiving IDPs. Support provided includes awareness, psycho-social support; child protection; GBV support and case management, informal education, assistance for persons with specific needs, legal assistance); specialized services for children and women/girls are also provided.

In addition, protection partners are carrying out regular consultations with affected people through mobile teams (child protection and GBV) outreach volunteers (ORVs) to understand the protection needs in IDP hosting areas and conduct rapid needs assessments, identification of persons with specific needs, case management and referrals.

All protection, child protection and GBV actors have mobilized to receive and provide protection services to the IDPs relocated from Mabruka camp to Areesheh. There are some concerns of voluntariness of the relocation, IDP were not able to move to the locations of their choice, take all their belongings and retrieve their IDs.

Following advocacy with the local authorities and camp administration in Mahmoudli camp,54 IDP families who arrived from Ein Issa received back their confiscated identification documents and were able to leave the camp to their areas of origin in Raqqa. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)Needs and gaps.

There is a continued advocacy for protection of both water and electric supply infrastructure across northeast Syria. Specifically, the WASH Sector continues working with the authorities in view of exploring technically-feasible alter-natives to address the water deficit in Al-Hasakeh city.

Need for additional water trucking, alongside enhanced water quality monitoring/surveillance measures, to meet the anticipated water supply deficits across the affected cities and IDP camps. Specifically, limited access to some sector’s partners to Areesheh and Al Hol camps is being reported.

Given the unfolding situation and latest developments, additional financial resources are envisaged to be needed to meet WASH needs in the next three to six months.

Al Himme water pumping station, with a pumping rate of 24,000m per day, remains operational and able to cover roughly 30 per cent of Al-Hasakeh daily demands (80,000m 3).  To address the deficit in Al-Hasakeh, WASH partners continue tracking a total of 695m liters of drinking water to the city center of Al-Hasakeh.

WASH partners assessed the needs at 12 collective shelters. On 14 October, assessments were completed at Fawaz Al July and Al Nassrah Al Muhdathe schools in Al Nassarah neighbourhood, and Ablahd Mousa school in Al Omran neighbourhood. Main findings highlight (i) lack of potable water; (ii) lack of garbage containers; (iii) lack of hygiene-related items; (iv) unsuitable latrines; and (v) issues with the sewage system at the Ablahd Mousa school/collective shelter. A number of disabled people were also identified and who will require specific attention.

Emergency water trucking to IDP camps and villages remain ongoing. Water trucking is however heavily reliant on the Allouk water station supply. There is no health service provision at Ein Issa camp.  Further to the withdrawal of NGOs, scale up of health services is needed. As such, preparedness is underway to increase the mobilization of more health facilities and mobile teams to support the health services provision in NES, and planned dispatch processes are in place.

The Ministry of Health submitted an official request to support Al-Tabqa hospital. Due to the unstable security situation and due to the withdrawal of the security points inside Al-Hol camp, a health actor reported suspension of all its operations to ensure safety and security of the medical staff.

Over 132 civilian casualties were reported since the start of the conflict, in addition to 39 recorded death cases. More support is needed for front line hospitals; functionality should be scaled up. Need to increase the number of first aid points (trauma stabilisation centres) at the nearest safe locations to receive the injuries and refer them as necessary and strengthen the referrals pathways between the active partners.

Need to apply early warning, alert response system at the locations where IDPs have been arriving/are hosted. Need to sustain continuity of basic health services throughout the IDP camps. Need for a comprehensive mental health and psychological service support/GBV-integrated response. Need to identify immediate reproductive health needs, including pregnancy care, family planning, treatment for infectious diseases and neonatal care.

The vaccination coverage is low especially in Raqqa. Many private hospitals are reporting a shortage of some supplies no longer available at local markets. Sufficient life-sustaining medicines and medical supplies at Qamishihub need to be prepositioned to support health partners in the affected locations.

A number of OCHA humanitarian partners are responding to the current emergency. Reproductive health partners are continuing assessments in communal shelters in Al Hassakeh, Tal Tamer and neighboring areas.  The second day of the ongoing polio campaign was completed –2,000 children in Al Hol camp and 1,500 children in Al Areesheh camp were vaccinated. Visits are in place to the shelters in Al-Hasakehand Tal Tamr by the national NGOs and supported by UN agencies –a total of 17 health facilities are being supported.

The provision of first aid services continues through six ambulances and first aid squads.·As of 14 October, the number of admitted injures within the hospitals supported by WHO is 9 cases, while 167 injuries were referred to Al-Hasakeh national hospital.

Nutrition screening is being done both at collective shelters and locations where IDPs have arrived.

Four medical mobile teams (MMTs), one integrated reproductive health and GBV MMT, two sexual and reproductive health static clinics provide health services, including reproductive ones, to the IDPs relocated from Ma-brouka to Areesheh camp, from Ras al-Aynto Tal Tamr in the host community and IDPs shelters in Al-Hasakehcity.

UNICEF have enough local health and nutrition supplies in Quamishl is sufficient for up to one month.Further supplies are on their way. Work in Al Hol remains ongoing at the fixed clinics, with the exception of the clinic in phase 7 as mobile teams stopped due to the security situation at the camp.Shelter and Non-Food Items (NFIs) Needs and gaps

Available plots at camps are limited. Should there be additional movements to camps, there is a risk of over-crowding.

There are concerns with regards to adequate shelter and heating as winter approaches. Approvals for UN partners to distribute NFIs are on hold and partners are advocating for a swift solution. As new tents and NFIs were distributed at Areesheh camp, tensions were reported. Partners will be distributing to all camp residents.

Partners encouraged to work through the Cash Working Group before distributing vouchers as access to markets, and goods and items could prove challenging given the fluid and volatile situation on the ground.

Core NFIs distributed to 19,523 individuals, an estimated 3,900 households, at Mabruka, Ein Essa, Mahmoudli and Areesheh IDP camps. Core NFIs distributed to 11,550 individuals, an estimated 2,310 households, at 14 communal shelters in Al-Hasakehand Tal Tamr. Also, 1,750 individuals in Tal Tamr, an estimated 350 households, were reached with additional blankets, diapers and water.

Tents for 700 households, approximately 3,500 individuals, were provided at Areesheh camp.·A shelter assessment was conducted at the collective centres to determine shelter needs and findings will be provided soon. Capacity (continued evaluation) Tents to respond to 4,000 households in Quamishli, and an additional 1,000 are being dispatched.An estimated 2,000 tents are available in country, while another 4,960 are in the pipeline.

Emergency shelter kits can be used to support displaced families living in collective centres or urban locations –1,000 kits are being dispatched. Some 11,550 winter clothing children kits are available, with distribution to start, and there is capacity to provide 4,000 households with winter cash.

NGO partners are reporting lack of extensive stocks. Current routes available are via Homs/Tartous to Tabqa. Ready-to-eat rations (RTEs) needs in Menbij and Ain Arab/Kobani sub-districts, Aleppo governorate, and Ein Issa and Ar-Raqqa city, Ar-Raqqa governorate.

While lack of access to Mabruka and Ein Issa camps is impacting food response to the camp residents and disrupting the monthly response cycle, cooking gas and heating fuel is a need in all camps.Response

RTEs were distributed to 11,255 individuals in Tal Tamr, Al-Hasakeh, Areesheh, Quamishli, Tal Hamis, Al-Mali-keyyehat both collective centre-and village-levels.

RTEs were distributed to 3,000 individuals at Areeshehcamp.  Bread was distributed to 2,206 individuals at collective centres in Al-Hasakeh. Date bars were distributed to 3,235 individuals at both collective centres in Tal Hamis and Areesheh camp. A total of 5,000 RTEs were dispatched to respond to 5,000 households in in Tal Tamrr, Al-Hasakeh, Areesheh, Quamishli, Tal Hamis and Al-Malikeyyeh, with an additional 4,000 being dispatched to Ar-Raqqa city.Capacity

A total of 30,000 general food rations are in stock for immediate response and will be used to support the dis-placed at the collective centres or at urban locations –400 rations are being dispatched.  A total of 30,900 general food rations are in the pipeline to respond to additional needs as they arise.  A total of 16,100 RTEs are in the pipeline to respond to those displaced at the collective centres or urban locations and will be delivered within the next ten days.

In the mean time, a multi-purpose cash response planned for 3,000 IDP households.


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