Hundreds of thousands of Syrians fleeing a fierce government push are being squeezed into ever-smaller areas near Turkey’s border under horrendous conditions, including below-freezing temperatures that are killing babies and children, the United Nations humanitarian chief has warned.
Addressing the UN Security Council, Mark Lowcock said on Wednesday the “unfolding humanitarian catastrophe” in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province had overwhelmed efforts to deliver and provide aid.
Nearly 900,000 people, more than half of whom are children, have fled their homes since December 1, when Russian-backed Syrian government forces pressed ahead with a military offensive to push out opposition fighters from their last stronghold in the country.
Erdogan threatens ‘imminent’ Turkish operation in Syria
‘Horror’ in Syria: UN cites deliberate attacks on civilians
Erdogan: Turkey will hit Syrian government forces ‘anywhere’
“They are moving into increasingly crowded areas they think will be safer,” Lowcock said.
“But in Idlib, nowhere is safe.”
Displaced Syrians arrive to Deir al-Ballut camp in Afrin’s countryside, along the border with Turkey [ Rami al Sayed/AFP]
‘Catastrophic human suffering’
Lowcock said hostilities are now all around areas densely populated with “terrified” people who have fled “on foot or on the backs of trucks”. They are now in Dana and Sarmada, in the direction of the shut Bab al-Hawa border crossing with neighbouring Turkey, in what has been the biggest wave of displacement since the start of the war nearly nine years ago.
Nearly 300 civilians have been killed in attacks this year in the northwest region, with 93 percent of the deaths caused by Syrian and Russian forces, according to the UN.