A Syrian child stands over the body of a child in a makeshift hospital following an airstrike on the rebel-held town of Arbin, in eastern Ghouta on Friday. Photo: Abdulmonam Eassa/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The United Nations has called for an immediate ceasefire across Syria to address the dire humanitarian situation in the war-torn country.
The UN urged an “immediate cessation of hostilities lasting for at least one month throughout Syria to enable the delivery of humanitarian aid and services, evacuation of the critically sick and wounded, and alleviation of people’s suffering, to the extent possible, wherever they are,” read a press release on Tuesday.
The humanitarian team within Syria warned of humanitarian crises in several parts of the country, including Afrin, Raqqa, and Idlib.
Many civilians are “virtually trapped” in Afrin and are being prevented from leaving the area where military operations are ongoing, the UN stated. Some 380 families have managed to evacuate, reaching surrounding villages and Aleppo city neighborhoods, however thousands of people remain displaced within Afrin.
Turkey launched its Operation Olive Branch in Afrin on January 20. At least 15,000 people have been internally displaced, leaving the border regions where the bulk of the fighting is taking place, and moving into central Afrin, according to UN figures.
Afrin health officials say more than 140 civilians have been killed and another 310 injured, Oxfam reported on Monday.
In Raqqa, which was liberated from ISIS by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in October of last year, “the city’s devastation is unparalleled and conditions remain unsafe,” the UN stated, adding that many civilians attempting to return home have been killed or injured by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that have yet to be cleared.
“Services are absent,” the UN stated. “Access for humanitarian workers to the city is almost impossible due to unsafe conditions.”
In Idlib, the Syrian government launched a fresh assault on December 15, which has caused “increased casualties and movement of civilians to safer areas,” many who have been forced to flee several times to escape fighting. More than 270,000 people remain displaced.
The Syrian conflict began in 2011. The civil war was complicated by the rise of ISIS in 2014. Half of all Syrians have been displaced from their homes at one time or another and at least 400,000 people have been killed.