Two top level international meetings due to take place on Friday could be the last hope for preventing disaster for over 2.5 million Syrian civilians living in Idlib, in the country’s north west.
The UN Security Council meets today to discuss the situation in Idlib, following a meeting between the leaders of Iran, Russia, and Turkey in Tehran earlier in the day. Oxfam is calling on the entire international community to urgently work together to prevent a new humanitarian catastrophe, which the UN estimates could displace 800,000 people.
There have been reports of airstrikes this week in western Idlib - the last governorate under control of armed groups. The governorate has been described by the UN as a “dumping ground for fighters and civilians” evacuated from areas of Syria retaken by the Government and has seen regular fighting between the different armed groups, providing only a fragile sanctuary for those civilians who fled violence in other parts of the country.
Oxfam’s Country Director in Syria, Moutaz Adham said: “It’s clear that the situation in Idlib is already dire. The population of Idlib has roughly doubled, as people have fled conflict elsewhere - putting an increased strain on water supplies, shelter, and other humanitarian support.
“We have seen the devastation caused by conflict time and again, in Aleppo, in Eastern Ghouta and in Dar’a. A major conflict in Idlib would result in a catastrophe unlike anything we have seen before. The international community simply must come together to find a solution to help those who are simply trying to survive, and prevent an escalation of violence on any side.”
Idlib was named a de-escalation zone by Russia, Iran, and Turkey as part of agreements made at peace talks in the Khazak capital Astana.
Oxfam is preparing to respond to any humanitarian emergency in Idlib, in the first instance by providing clean water, sanitation facilities, and items like blankets, clothes and soap. However, access for aid agencies has been limited throughout Syria’s seven-year civil war.
Moutaz Adham said, “Preventing violence must be the number one priority, but with an already bleak humanitarian situation, we urge all those involved to ensure Oxfam and others can provide urgent aid to people in desperate need.”