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800,000 people in firing line in northwest Syria, warns IRC

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Speaking about the escalating violence in northwest Syria, Misty Buswell – Policy and Advocacy Director for the IRC in the Middle East – said:

"The situation in northwest Syria is deteriorating rapidly and we now estimate that there are 800,000 people in the firing line. If this number of people are forced to flee, it will be the largest displacement we have seen since the start of the war nine years ago.

“This latest escalation has opened up a dangerous new front in the conflict. Western Aleppo is an area where civilians had been largely spared until now. However, more than 20,000 people have fled their homes in the past week alone, dozens have been killed, and our teams on the ground have described those on the move as not merely fleeing in a state of panic, but in complete and utter terror.

“The IRC has had to suspend operations in one of our field offices due to the intensity of the fighting, a number of our staff have already been forced to relocate, and we have five local staff in the area who have told us with absolute certainty that they will have to join the thousands of people who have already been displaced if the fighting continues to intensify.

“Most of those on the move are heading north to the border with Turkey or west, for Idlib – an area that is already at breaking point. Since April last year, over 750,000 people were displaced within Idlib as a result of the fighting, and the conditions they are living in are dire. Camps are full, health services are over-stretched, and the majority are living either in flimsy, closely-packed tents with multiple occupants, which leak when it rains and frequently get flooded. Or, crammed into communal shelters where they are trying desperately to keep their families safe and warm in freezing cold winter temperatures that chill them to the bone.

“We are already in the midst of a major humanitarian catastrophe, and it is unimaginable that it could get any worse – but it will if the conflict continues. Innocent civilians need an immediate ceasefire – one that is adhered to by all sides. An end to the fighting is the only way to ensure the safety of civilians, support the ability of humanitarian actors to meet their ever growing needs, and provide the basis for establishing a peaceful solution to this horrific conflict. The people of Syria have suffered enough.”

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and over 20 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.