A Syrian refugee girl on a bus traveling to the European border city of Edirne, from Istanbul, Turkey on February 28, 2020 | Photo: EPA/Erdem Sahin
A Syrian refugee girl on a bus traveling to the European border city of Edirne, from Istanbul, Turkey on February 28, 2020 | Photo: EPA/Erdem Sahin

The United Nations has reported that the number of Syrian civilians forced to flee violence in the northwest has risen to nearly one million since December 2019. The majority of them are women and children.

Since December 1 last year, nearly one million Syrian civilians have been uprooted by the ongoing conflict between Turkey and the Syrian government in northwest Syria. That's according to the United Nations.

A reported 80% of the internally displaced people (IDPs) are women and children, according to an update on the situation by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) published on March 5.

"The ongoing humanitarian crisis in northwest Syria continues to deepen as needs across the area multiply with almost 1 million people displaced within the space of three months," the organization said.

"The most recent displacement further aggravated an already dire situation in northwest Syria where 2.8 million people out of 4 million were already estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance," the statement read.

The uprooted civilians have now increasingly concentrated in a small area along the Turkey-Syria border with nowhere else to flee, the UN said. Turkey, which has hosted more than three million Syrian civilians since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, has sealed its border and is not letting Syrian refugees into the country.

The UN said that four million people are living over an area comprising Idlib and Aleppo under Turkish control, with 2.8 million needing urgent humanitarian aid.

Italian associations thank Pope, denounce situation

Several human rights groups in Italy have signed a letter to thank Pope Francis as "the only world leader who has remembered the drama of civilians in Idlib, in northwest Syria."

The organizations include Amnesty International Italia, Catholic charity Caritas, the Italian chapter of the Jesuit Refugee Service, the Community of Sant'Egidio, the Union of Islamic communities in Italy (UCOII) and an association of journalists who are friends with Jesuit Priest Father Paolo Dall'Oglio, who was abducted in Syria in 2013.

In the letter, the organizations also expressed anguish over "images of children frozen to death, who were sometimes on their own or with parents and family members."

"On the one hand, they are forced to flee to Turkey from Syria by intense bombings that violate the most elementary rules of international humanitarian law," the letter read. "On the other hand, they can't find safety due to a wall that can't be crossed today."

The organizations decried that the situation of the estimated one million people gathered at the Turkish border has been "going on for months." It also warned that military operations could "double the displaced" unless an "urgent solution" was found.

"There are only two small humanitarian corridors opened by the UN to bring them some basic necessities: this is inadmissible," the organization concluded.

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