Children in Syria’s besieged Idlib province are exhibiting signs of “severe distress,” a new report warns, as a government campaign to regain control of one of the country’s final rebel strongholds has intensified in recent weeks.
A rapid assessment report from the International Rescue Committee released Thursday found that the fighting has displaced over 270,000 since May and could ultimately force more than 700,000 people in the Northwest province to flee their homes, as conditions have become “not humanly bearable.”
For many, this would not be the first time they’ve been displaced since the conflict began in 2011, with residents reporting they’ve previously been displaced an average of five times. Remarkably, 16 percent of those interviewed by IRC said they had been displaced 10 or more times.
Facing the prospect of being uprooted once more, over half of parents and guardians reported that their children are showing signs of psychosocial distress, like unusual crying and screaming. Many said their children have stopped speaking and playing and have become otherwise increasingly sad and introverted, while others have become more aggressive.
“These are signs of severe distress that, without support, children may carry with them for the rest of their lives,” Misty Buswell, IRC’s Middle East Advocacy Director, warned.
This interview is heartbreaking.
'We are not terrorists, we are civilians.'
This distraught father has lost his mother, 2 daughters & a son to the bombing campaign in Idlib orchestrated by Russian-backed Syrian President Assad https://t.co/K5ZDD9p4hh pic.twitter.com/Fk0AcQ5VGf
— Catrin Nye (@CatrinNye) May 29, 2019
The report is based on surveys conducted in 433 households in the cities of Idlib, Harim, and Jisr-Ash-Shugur.
Buswell said a surge in airstrikes conducted by the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad and its Russian partners have taken a severe toll on civilians in the region.
“Doctors tell us that most affected are women and children who are sheltering at home, and are left with shrapnel and blast injuries when their houses are hit,” she said.
According to IRC, 25 hospitals and health facilities have been attacked since the outset of the siege, leaving many with nowhere to go for treatment. Buswell condemned the strikes as “egregious,” and “unacceptable,” adding they have exacerbated the “horror” of the situation civilians are already facing.
The United Nations said it supplied Russian officials with the coordinates of hospitals in the region in hopes of preventing strikes, but eight of those facilities were hit nonetheless.
One woman told the IRC her three-year-old son started having nightmares after the bombardments.
“He tells me that he is seeing dead bodies,” she said.