Aid workers and activists have warned of an “unprecedented catastrophe” unfolding in northwest Syria, as government forces, backed by the Russian army and Iranian militias, press ahead with a full-scale assault on opposition-held areas.
Local humanitarian staff said on Sunday that the rapidly deteriorating conditions over the past two weeks had left them struggling to cope with the large numbers of displaced people streaming into the north and west of Idlib and Aleppo provinces.
“The situation is 20 times worse than what it was last year. And over the span of last year, we had 1.2 million people displaced [in northwest Syria]”, said Obaida Dandoush, who works for the Syrian NGO Syria Relief and Development.
Since the summer of 2018, Syrian government forces have been pushing to retake the last opposition stronghold in the northwest, home to more than three million people.
According to the United Nations, some 586,000 people, mostly women and children, have fled since the latest escalation of fighting began in the area in December. Between January 26 and February 2 alone, some 200,000 people were forced from their homes, with the UN warning that the air and ground attacks in Idlib were causing both “massive waves” of displacement and “major loss of civilian life”.