Syrian Humanitarian Crisis Continues to Deteriorate — Idlib in Imminent Danger

Syrian refugees

BEIRUT – According to the Thomas Reuters Foundation, “A Syrian army offensive in the rebel-held enclave of Idlib would have a “catastrophic” humanitarian impact and cause levels of civilian suffering unprecedented in the seven-year war, aid agencies have warned.”

Joelle Bassoul from Care International said that a large-scale military offensive in Idlib would be catastrophic, “In terms of death, injury, or displacement” it would be something we have never seen before. People will be stranded with nowhere to go [and] with no aid.”

Officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) warned of rising rates of acute malnutrition in the northwestern city and region of Idlib. Michel Thieren, Regional Emergencies Director, called the situation in the area right now “dire and [it] looks set to deteriorate.”

More than 11 million people already have been displaced by this conflict over the last seven years. Now the United Nations estimates that conflict in Idlib, the last remaining rebel stronghold could add another 2.5 million to that number.

Some sources expect as many as 250,000 people will attempt to flee across the Turkish border but the Turkish army is under orders to keep them on the Syrian side of the border in “safe places” whatever that means in Syria.

Earlier this month, the Syrian army dropped leaflets over Idlib urging the people to support the Syrian government which is prepared to unleash a major attack. Meanwhile, Abu Mohammed al-Golani declared that his al-Qaeda affiliate forces will stand their ground and fight to the bitter end.

The hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians are beginning to demonstrate a resigned attitude toward a situation they regard as imminent but out of their control. One refugee said that a Syrian army assault would leave the people living in the camps around Idlib with no choice. “We have nothing to do but to defend. Either we die with honor or we die with honor.”

A woman who has been living in one of the refugee camps for six of the seven war years with her five children said, “There is no hope . . . I have a feeling we will be here till we die.”

The relentless northward push of the war has marked Idlib as the last remaining place of hope for survival for nearly three million people in the country that has, for the second year in a row, been declared the deadliest place for aid workers.

Representatives of CARE International noted that humanitarian aid workers in Syria are regarded as targets by the armies. Since January of 2018, 76 aid workers from various organizations have been killed in the conflict, often as the target of brutal assaults.

In the meantime, WHO is struggling to gain another $11 million in funding in order to meet the mounting, desperate needs of the innocents who have lost everything during their fight for survival and now face the potential of disease from malnutrition and lack of adequate health care.

It may seem like we cannot do anything for these people. But, regardless of where we are, we can pray. Please join us in doing exactly that.