Speaking about the deteriorating situation in Idlib, Misty Buswell – Regional Policy and Advocacy Director for the International Rescue Committee – said:

“Unimaginably, an already catastrophic situation in northwest Syria is getting even worse. It is bitterly cold in Idlib at the moment, thousands of people are sheltering in tents, in unfinished buildings and in their vehicles. With temperatures now dropping as low as -11 degrees, people are resorting to ever more desperate measures to keep warm – burning clothes, tyres and plastic bags. But even this is not enough. We have heard reports today that at least one child has died as a result of the cold, further adding to people’s misery.

“Since the beginning of the year, over 200 people have been killed as a result of the violence – including at least 84 children. Over the past three weeks, a quarter of a million people have been forced to flee their homes – 100,000 in the past week alone – and we estimate that another 500,000 remain in the firing line and will be displaced if the violence continues. Many of those who have fled have had to do so multiple times before, and even our own staff have not been spared from the effects of the fighting – so far 27 have been forced from their homes, but despite this are continuing their work to assist their affected neighbours and communities. Both the RESCUE and our partner organisations have had to suspend operations in a number of medical facilities in recent weeks, leaving an already vulnerable population even more so.

“As people lose their homes, see their children killed by airstrikes or before their eyes as they desperately try to keep them warm, it is not only the humanitarian situation in Idlib that is at breaking point, but the people there too. The crisis going on now in Idlib reflects an utter failure of diplomacy and the abandonment of Syrian civilians by the international community. We urgently need a ceasefire to prevent further loss of life. But there must also be accountability for the violations of International Humanitarian Law that continue to so frequently occur, and there must be an immediate return to the UN led peace process.”