The heads of 11 global humanitarian organizations warned on Thursday that the embattled rebel-held province of Idlib in Syria, stands on the brink of disaster, with three million civilian lives at risk, including one million children.
In a direct video address to launch a worldwide campaign in solidarity with civilians trapped there, dubbed #TheWorldIsWatching, the humanitarian leaders said that they face the constant threat of violence. “Too many have died already” and “even wars have laws” they declared, in the face of multiple attacks by Government forces and their allies on hospitals, schools and markets, together with fierce resistance from extremist fighters that have gained control of much of the territory.
“Idlib is on the brink of a humanitarian nightmare unlike anything we have seen this century”, they warn.
UN relief chief and Humanitarian Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, said that “our worst fears are materializing…Yet again innocent civilians are paying the price for the political failure to stop the violence and do what is demanded under international law – to protect all civilians.
A huge influx of civilians – many displaced by fighting during urban offensives in places such as Aleppo and eastern Ghouta – has seen the northwestern Governorate double in population since 2015.
At least 330,000 have been forced to seek shelter elsewhere within the region, during the huge uptick in violence of the past two months. Many of them have nowhere left to run.
“Our campaign expresses solidarity with the families under attack and tells everyone that we are watching and witnessing what is happening”, said OCHA chief Lowcock.
With more than 300 civilians have been killed in the so-called de-escalation area in northwestern Syria since the latest Government offensive, including many women and children, said the Senior Humanitarian Adviser on Syria, Najat Rochdi.
During a Syria Humanitarian Taskforce meeting in Geneva on Thursday, she noted the ambulance that had been hit by aerial bombardment just last week, and the death of three medical workers, who had been attempting to rescue a female patient who also died, while they were trying to reach a local hospital.
“Everything needs to be done to protect civilians”, she said. “Universal principles and values must prevail when so many innocent lives are at stake.”
In Rukban camp on the Jordanian border, she said around 27,000 displaced civilians still lacked the most basic services, in dire need of assistance. “We continue to call for humanitarian access to Rukban to be able to deliver life-saving aid and to assist those who would like to leave”, she added.