90% of IDP camps in northwest Syria 'past their expiry date' as snow hits Idlib

90% of IDP camps in northwest Syria 'past their expiry date' as snow hits Idlib
3 min read
25 January, 2022
About 90% of displacement camps in northwest Syria have gone past their designated lifespans, an aid group warned on Monday.
The UN urged the international community to assist IDPs to move from tents to more permanent shelters [Getty]

About 90 percent of the displacement camps in northwest Syria are past their designated lifespans an aid group warned on Monday, pointing to this winter’s heavy snows as the latest stressor.

The Response Coordination Group (RCG), a local relief group, said that more than 23,000 Internally Displaced People (IDPs) have been affected by the weekend’s severe snowstorms. About 2,300 of these individuals were rendered homeless as a result, while about 1,800 tents were destroyed or damaged.

Northwest Syria is home to about 2.8 million IDPs, many of them pushed into the last opposition-controlled pocket of the country by the Syrian regime's latest offensive in Idlib in February 2020. Most of these people live in informal settlements on the sides of the road, with little more to protect them from the elements than a canvas tent.

January has brought chilling temperatures to these camps, with scenes of snow caving in tents and children crying from the snow circulating social media. Every year, instances of entire families asphyxiating after warming themselves by burning trash or coal are not uncommon. This winter season, however, has been particularly harsh.

The damage from the snow and rain storms is ongoing, but weather conditions have made many settlements impossible to reach. According to RCG, more than 42 camps have been cut off from aid organisations due to the blizzardy conditions and blocked roads.

As a result, more than 266 people, most of whom were children or elderly, were unable to reach medical treatment, the aid group said.

Mark Cutts, the UN Deputy Regional Humanitarian Coordinator, appealed to the international community to "quickly get the displaced out of tents and into safer and more dignified temporary shelter".

Almost all of the aid coming into northwest Syria comes through the Bab Al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey. The other border crossings used to truck aid into Syria from other neighbouring countries were shut after Russia vetoed their use at the UN Security Council.

The UN Security Council will vote to re-authorize the use of the Bab al-Hawa border crossing in July, which Russia is expected to object to. Russia prefers all aid be routed through Damascus, though analysts have previously warned that delivering aid across conflict lines into northwest Syria “cannot be carried out effectively at scale.”

Around 2.5 million people in northwest Syria are reliant on aid coming from Turkey, with high rates of malnutrition among children despite the amount of aid coming in.

Living conditions are worsening for people across Syria, but particularly in northwest Syria. The rapid depreciation of the Turkish Lira – which is used for small transactions across the area – has increased the prices of basic goods and local purchasing power.