North Syria: Internally displaced Syrians trapped, under attack, & in dire need of humanitarian assistance

Thursday, August 11, 2016 — With moving frontlines and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) offensive on Menbij, the number of civilians fleeing their home towns towards the area’s surrounding the Euphrates River increased.  Both Internal displaced Syrian’s and the host communities are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

The dire situation together with an overall collapse of the health system raises fears of a further increase of preventable childhood diseases in the country, said the international humanitarian aid organisation Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

“There are no doctors and we don’t have access to food. We cannot move freely here. All people are afraid. I dream about going back and live with my family safely in my village. Once I’m back I’ll never leave it again but unfortunately that can only happen when we are not being attacked again and again.” A 51 years old from north east of Abu Qalqal.

We need vaccinations

Only few weeks ago twenty three children with suspected measles reported to the local health centre in Sarrin, north east of Aleppo, in May. All were from communities living in conflict-affected areas close to newly-formed frontlines, where vaccination rates and access to health care remains fragile.

“Measles is highly infectious and outbreaks occur where health systems and routine childhood vaccination is absent or insufficient,” says Vanessa Cramond, MSF medical emergency manager. “Younger children are particularly vulnerable to measles, especially when complicated by malnutrition or other illnesses.” Cramond added.

A looming health crisis

To help stem the risk of infection spreading, MSF scaled-up support to local health authorities in northern Syria, who implemented a ring vaccination campaign in the area east of the Euphrates River in north east of Aleppo governorate. 2,784 children were rapidly vaccinated for measles in communities that are suffering from the consequences of war and ground offensive.

Local health-response teams simultaneously conducted an emergency food distribution and screened all children who passed through the vaccination campaign for acute malnutrition.

Nine children with severe acute malnutrition were identified and received urgent medical care, while 30 children with moderate acute malnutrition received nutritional treatment. 

‘It was not safe in Menbij, so we decided to run away with our five children. First we took a motorbike together with the children, but for the last part of the journey, we were forced to walk. We were lucky to make it here. The main challenges here are getting food and medical care. There is only one private pharmacy with some drugs, but there is no doctor. But we need vaccinations for our children. A 27 year old IDP woman in Menbij

Almost six years into the conflict in Syria, and families and communities both in the direct path of the fighting and far behind frontlines continue to experience outbreaks of disease and difficulty in accessing care for chronic conditions such as diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease and other previously treatable illnesses. Without increased access to medical care, the population’s health will continue to decline.

‘Since March 2015, MSF has worked alongside the Kobane Health Administration to re-establish basic health facilities, provide outpatient health services, re-introduce vaccination services, and create psychosocial support programmes.  MSF is currently assisting the health administration in opening a new 36-bed hospital in Kobane town and 8 health clinics in surrounding areas.