The Worst Human Crisis of the Syrian Conflict
As many as 250,000 already war-battered Syrian women, children, and men — scant possessions and provisions in hand — are fleeing Idlib beneath a pitiless rain of bombs and bullets from Russian and Syrian government forces swarming into the northwestern province.
The mass exodus has left Maaret al-Numan a major city in the south of Idlib “almost empty,” according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
“Every day for 9 years, we have been diligently delivering aid from our donors to thousands displaced inside Syria and countless more refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan,” said Halil Demir, Zakat Foundation executive director. “But this assault on Idlib is becoming the greatest humanitarian catastrophe this conflict has ever seen — and that’s saying a lot when it’s already caused such mass human suffering.”
Zakat Foundation has issued its most urgent appeal for emergency aid to help the hundreds of thousands uprooted by the deadly violence consuming Idlib.
As early as mid-December, the lethal Russian-Syrian government blitz drove as many as 80,000 people from their homes, with tens of thousands of them reportedly well on their way to Turkey, already teeming with 3.7 million Syrian émigrés, making it the largest Syrian refugee host-country in the world.
Since then, daily throngs of new Idlib exiles — overwhelmingly women and children — have begun that same exhausting, perilous trek. The new assault has displaced some of these fractured families twice, first forcing them from Maaret al-Numan to the rural town of Saraqab to the east, then dislocating them again, this time northward toward Turkey, as the assault engulfs ever-widening swaths of territory.
With the Russian-backed, Syrian government onslaught pushing upward through Idlib, the number of people expelled by violence from the border province could realistically balloon to a staggering 3 million. That would nearly double Turkey’s already burgeoning Syrian refugee population. The dire consequences — in the form of sheer human suffering, tsunamis of desperate migrants, and interregional political mayhem — will be utterly catastrophic and dwarf everything that has made the world gasp at Syria’s horrifying decade of savagery.
Syrian Women and Children Suffering from Appalling Trauma
Women and children make up a shameful 80 percent or more — up to 200,000 — of the displaced fleeing for their lives, according to UN Regional Spokesperson for the Syria Crisis David Swanson.
He notes the UN estimates that upwards of 400,000 other displaced Syrians, also mostly women and children, escaped their homes (or their newly established dwellings in Idlib after leaving their original homes elsewhere in Syria because of the conflict) between April and August 2019. “What we have is a displacement crisis on top of another displacement crisis,” he said.
The Russian-Syrian government offensive has already killed at least 1,000 unarmed innocents in just weeks, many of them women and children, in reportedly indiscriminate aerial bombardments.
Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster, reports the joint assault has “laid waste to many towns,” and caused medical relief organizations like the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) to close down its relief operations in two of the region’s main hospitals.
Another medical relief group, Medico International, reports that Russian-Syrian government violence has deliberately targeted 100 hospitals with bombardment.
The Larger Fallout
Turkish officials warn that the devastation will inevitably trigger a mass exodus of migrants into Europe, similar or even greater than the last major movement of refugees there in 2015, with Greece bearing a disproportionate burden.
The building humanitarian catastrophe may scuttle the European Union’s deal with Turkey to provide for the refugees and prevent them from seeking asylum in Greece and Europe.
The multi-sided conflict has killed more than 370,000 people, mostly civilians, since it began on 15 March 2011 and displaced at least 13.1 million Syrians, more than half Syria’s pre-war population of 22 million. Violence has displaced at least 6.6 million inside Syria (many displaced multiple times) and caused as many as 6.4 million to flee to other countries.
Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, and Sudan host nearly 90 percent of all Syrian refugees, more than half, as stated previously, by Turkey. Another 722,000 to a million have migrated to Europe, with Germany accepting about 532,000.
Your Short- and Long-Term Help
Zakat Foundation of America, with the support of its donors, has built up a broad, exemplary relief infrastructure to assist Syrian refugees and the displaced – including orphans, widows, the poor, and students in need – throughout the last decade and developed essential cooperation with many local humanitarian partners.
With the mushrooming of the new Idlib humanitarian crisis, Zakat Foundation leaders and the organization’s supporters have doubled down on their Syrian emergency assistance campaign to reach the swelling tide of victims with critical, life-saving aid in four critical categories”
- Urgently needed winter clothing, blankets, and heating resources
- Storable staples of food and water
- Medicines, medical and surgical equipment, mental health help, & hygiene kits
- Financial assistance
- Education services and programs
Zakat Foundation aid specialists and delivery systems are already in place to deliver this vital, lifesaving aid directly to the newly displaced of Idlib and refugees now in dire straits.
“We need to rush massive humanitarian assistance — especially winter survival items, foodstuffs, and equipment — to our brothers and sisters whose lives now literally depend on it,” says Demir. “Beyond this, the mental, surgical, and clinical medical demands will mount.
“We also have to think ahead and step in with long-term aid for the huge number of new orphans, widows, and families run by mothers who are suddenly alone. That means establishing stable, safe residences; viable educations for both children and mothers, including language, vocational, and entrepreneurial training and assistance for parents; and good, free healthcare, including mental, psychological, and specialized care for these people whose lives have been totally upended.
The Syrians of Idlib now suffer acute humanitarian assault. They live now in urgent need of our aid and prayers.
Please give generously to help the innocent suffering of Idlib, Syria – its children, its widowed mothers, its elderly and men. This is their time of desperate helplessness and utmost need.