UN Expresses Concern Over Safety of Civilians in Idlib

Geneva, MINA – The United Nations on Tuesday expressed concern over the safety and well-being of civilians in northwestern Syria, especially Idlib, where continuous fighting has led to the displacement of nearly a million people since last December.

“In just little more than 10 weeks from December 1 till today, nearly 700,000 people have been forcibly displaced in Idlib and surrounding areas in north-west Syria, most of them women and children,” said Jens Laerke, spokesman of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Anadolu Agency reported.

“This is, from our initial analysis, the largest number of people displaced in a single period since the Syrian crisis that began almost nine years ago,” he told a regular UN press briefing.

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Laerke said that besides the killing, the latest displacement compounds an already dire humanitarian situation on the ground in Idlib and protection, shelter, food, water, sanitation, and hygiene, health, and emergency education are all urgent priorities.

The OCHA spokesman added that an estimated 2.8 million people in north-west Syria required humanitarian assistance as the UN was engaged in a massive humanitarian operation.

UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) spokesman Andrej Mahecic also addressed the briefing and said that the humanitarian crisis was getting severe, with a massive number of people on the move.

“The conflict in Syria has caused the biggest displacement crisis in the world. Over 5.5 million Syrians live as refugees in the region. More than six million Syrians are displaced within the country,” he said.

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At the briefing, Jenifer Fenton, a spokeswoman for UN Syria Special Envoy Geir O. Pedersen, said that an unprecedented number of civilians were fleeing in search of safety, and reports of civilian casualties continued in Idlib.

“It is essential that all parties agree to an immediate cessation of hostilities,” Fenton said.

She cited Pedersen’s recent briefing to the UN Security Council that “there must be a cooperative approach to the situation in Idlib; and immediate, unfettered humanitarian access to the civilian population.”

Pedersen, she said, was recently in Iran, where he met the country’s foreign minister and other senior officials, would continue high-level discussions with a range of actors.

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Idlib has been a stronghold of opposition and anti-government armed groups since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

In September 2018, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited. But the Bashar al-Assad and its allies keep violating the truce, resulting in casualties.

Turkey remains the country with the most refugees in the world, hosting more than 3.7 million migrants since the start of the uprising in the Middle Eastern country.(T/R04/RE1)

Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)