Increased violence in northwestern Syria over the past two weeks has put at risk the more than 3 million civilians in the Idlib area, over half of whom are internally displaced.
300,000 people were forced from their homes in southern Idlib in December as they moved further north away from the hostilities. At least 240,000, or 80%, of those displaced are women and children. Winter conditions are further exacerbating the dire humanitarian situation. Families are fleeing in torrential rain and temperatures at night are close to freezing. Over 135,000 civilians are reported to be living in camps, unfinished or partially destroyed buildings, tents, under trees, and even out in the open. Many families are in urgent need of humanitarian support, especially shelter, food, health, non-food items and winterization assistance.
people were displaced from southern Idlib, Syria, in December
Ali and his family fled the shelling and destruction in southern Idlib and now live in an IDP camp in northeastern Idlib. Every day, the boy must carry water to the tent his family now calls home, walking as his feet sink into the cold, muddy ground. “I want my school and my home. I want to go back to play with my neighbors and friends,” Ali says.
Families like Ali’s in Syria are fighting to survive. Here are more of their stories.
Jameel, from Aleppo
“I was displaced from Aleppo three years ago. I am the sole breadwinner in my family, which is made up of my three children, wife and sister. I lost two of my children in the city of Aleppo. I recently had to leave Idlib and came to the western countryside of Aleppo because of the heavy shelling. I left on a motorbike and carried what I could from our household items, blankets, and clothes. My family left before me; I sent them away from airstrikes and followed them the next day.
“If someone stole a lighter from you, you would be upset. How about someone taking away your home and your land right before your eyes? I suffer from many illnesses and I aged in a way that I can no longer support my family, but there is no one to help.
I feel sad about the houses and memories I left behind.
“I feel sad about the houses and memories I left behind in my first home in Aleppo and the second one in Idlib. I could only find an unfinished house, with no doors or windows to put my children in, but it does not protect us from the cold or the wind. I wish that we would have some relief and be in a better situation. I wish I could go back to my first home in Aleppo.”
Haniya, from Ma’arrat An-Numan
“We come from a village close to Ma’arrat An-Numan. Our village has not been bombed yet, but we were terrified when the shelling became very close. I have six children – three of them are married. We had to leave our homes, work, and children under the threat of heavy bombardment. We tried to move some of our tools and diesel but did not know where we were going to settle. Our family has been separated. Some of us came to the western countryside of Aleppo, while the others went to Idlib.
There is nothing more difficult than this torturous journey.
“We have been displaced for more than a week. A car took us to a town in northern Idlib, but we did not find a place to stay in or good treatment, so we came here. There is nothing more difficult than this torturous journey; it was full of hardships. There were no cars available to transport people and we saw many people in a similar situation. We moved many times since we left our home – we did not know how or where we were going to go. Getting here was hard won.
“I did not think I would have to leave my house and I did not know what to take with me. I had some hope that we would stay, but everyone advised me to leave with everything I could carry. My two eldest sons urged me to leave as well. I could only take necessities, but now we cannot go back to get anything. My children tried to go back in the night but could not reach our place. The situation has caused us nothing but worry and panic. We feel defeated.
“We have ended up on a deserted chicken farm. Myself, my children and their children cleaned it and settled here for the time being. I used some of the household items I managed to bring with me. I do not know what tomorrow holds for us and I can only ask God for help. I wish we could go back home.”
Louay, from Ma’arrat An-Numan
“I am from the countryside of Ma’arrat An-Numan. I am married and have three children. After a difficult night living under airstrikes and cannon fire, I decided to leave my home and save my family. I could only take some clothes and blankets. Our journey was arduous and difficult. We suffered until we found a car to leave and a place to stay. I gathered my family in one small car with some of our belongings and set on an unknown road to an unknown destination.
I gathered my family in one small car with some of our belongings and set on an unknown road to an unknown destination.
“We moved between cities and villages looking for a place to shelter in until we reached the western countryside of Aleppo. I spent one night in the car with my children. At last, I found a shop with a roof made of chaff. I paid the landlord 15,000 Syrian Pounds ($29 USD) for rent and put down a rug that my children can sit on. We are waiting in this place to see what would become of us
“We hope the violence will end and that we would return to our homes. If the situation stays like this or becomes worse, my family and I would have to become displaced again and move further north, hoping that it would be safer.”