Civilians under fire in two of Syria's 'de-escalation zones' living in inhumane conditions, warns CARE

9 February, 2018: Syrian civilians in Idlib and Eastern Ghouta have described to CARE increasingly harsh living conditions, pushing them to resort to fodder, expired medicine and unsafe water, as fighting continues in these two areas that are part of the ‘de-escalation zones’.

They called for the urgent delivery of aid, and an immediate end to the targeting of civilians. 

Maryam*, who works in Idlib for a local aid organisation supported by CARE, said:

Our teams are witnessing previously unseen situations: people with nothing but a layer of clothes, displaced by the airstrikes, and seeking refuge in open fields, some trying to shelter from the harsh weather under olive trees.

The team was assessing the needs of up to 300 families, displaced from Saraqeb town, which has been hit by several airstrikes that have caused dozens of deaths and injuries, and pushed 17,000 people to flee for safety.

Civilians from the northwestern Syrian city were gathered in a field, sitting on bare ground, some of them having built flimsy tents with a few blankets they had taken with them in their flight.

Maryam said:

Every day, newly displaced people arrive. Some of them had been displaced previously and have nothing left.

In another site, where another organisation has been setting up tents, families displaced from Hama are living with minimal aid, trying to burn the little firewood they can gather to cook and keep warm.

They have no toilets or proper sanitation, and rely on unsafe water trucked from nearby towns. With more than 1,200 schools closed in many areas of the governorate for fear of airstrikes, children remain at home. 

Manal*, a teacher working for a Syrian organisation, mentioned several cases of depression in children she supports. More than 200,000 people have been displaced in Idlib since December 2017, which alone saw a reported 16 attacks against healthcare facilities.

Wouter Schaap, CARE's country director for Syria, said:

Aid organisations like CARE are stepping up their assistance where possible, but the rate at which displacement is happening makes it impossible for humanitarian agencies to cover the needs of all people. The targeting of densely populated areas and civilian infrastructure has to stop now, and lifesaving aid has to reach men, women and children urgently.

In Eastern Ghouta, other humanitarian workers described lack of healthcare and food, leading people to use expired medicine, including antibiotics, and fodder to make bread, as the price of wheat flour soars. The area, home to nearly 400,000 people who have been besieged since 2012 by government forces, has recently seen a surge in deadly airstrikes, and a tightening of the siege. Schools have been closed for six weeks now.

Zeina*, an aid worker with a Syrian organisation, said:

Everything in Ghouta is 8 or 10 times more expensive than Damascus. We have no electricity so have to cook what is available day by day, because we can’t store food in fridges. And if we have some firewood, we use it in one room where we all huddle up.

A kilogram of sugar sells for 2,400 SYP (4 USD), meat for 5,000 SYP (9 USD) and bread for more than 2,000 SYP (3,8 USD), while the average monthly salary of a teacher is just 50,000 SYP (97 USD).

As the siege tightens, smuggled goods have become pricier, and families are having to resort to extremes to keep food on the table, such as mixing fodder with corn flour or barley to make bread.

Some have reduced their meals to just one per day.

Since the end of December, no medical evacuations from Eastern Ghouta have taken place. According to the United Nations (UN), 24 civilians have died while waiting for medical evacuation in January.

In December and January, no besieged area has received aid delivery through UN convoys.

CARE and the partners it supports inside Syria echo the UN call for a month long ceasefire, to allow humanitarian agencies to deliver critical aid to hundreds of thousands of people and evacuate the urgent medical cases.

Schaap said:

If the airstrikes, bombings and clashes continue or intensify, we will be like firefighters running to extinguish the flames in one spot, while two, three, four others burn up.

About CARE:
Founded in 1945, CARE is a leading humanitarian organisation fighting global poverty. CARE has more than seven decades of experience helping people prepare for disasters, providing lifesaving assistance when a crisis hits, and helping communities recover after the emergency has passed. CARE places special focus on women and children who are often disproportionately affected by disasters. Last year, CARE worked in 94 countries to reach 80 million people, including more than 11 million through emergency response and humanitarian aid. Learn more at  

For interviews, please contact: Joelle Bassoul, Communications Director - Syria Crisis,, +961-3422490

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