The Syrian conflict, now in its 5th year, continues to create significant challenges for civilian populations. Critical shortages of food and basic services such as water, electricity and healthcare amid heightened violence are widespread. The situation is particularly critical in besieged and hard-to-reach areas in which access and movement restrictions severely hinder the ability of populations to meet their needs. Understanding the impact of access restrictions on the humanitarian situation is a critical component of a unified and coordinated response amongst humanitarian actors.
REACH has partnered with the Syria INGO Regional Forum (SIRF) to provide regular community profiles of areas facing limitations on civilian movement and humanitarian access. In August and early September 2016, REACH assessed 14 UN-classified besieged locations and 22 other communities, gathering information through a total of 138 community representatives in Rural Damascus, Homs and Damascus governorates. You can access the Community Profiles Situation Overview, as well as the full Compiled Community profiles for the round of August.
In communities where restrictions tightened this month, reductions in the quantities of goods, fuel, NFIs and medical items permitted to enter were commonly reported. Madaya, located 40km northwest of Damascus city, reported a price for a standard core food basket 1500% higher than in nearby communities not considered besieged or hard-to-reach. In general, these communities also saw reductions in goods availability in markets or in their health facilities functionality, highlighting the particular vulnerability of these populations. Information collected in communities located in the Homs region, Eastern Ghouta, and in some western suburbs of Damascus, indicated critical levels of food insecurity; populations in these communities have reportedly adopted emergency coping strategies such as skipping meals, while in Madaya and Al Waer populations also reported spending days without eating and eating weeds or non-food plants to cope with the lack of food or resources. No aid was reported entering many besieged communities in Damascus and Rural Damascus.
All besieged and hard-to-reach communities commonly experience high levels of conflict and insecurity, high prices, and a lack of access to basic services, although this was particularly severe in the communities of Madaya, Az Zabdani, Madamiyet Elsham, Al Waer and Yarmouk, where populations indicated critical levels of vulnerability and are in need of emergency humanitarian assistance. Up-to-date information from REACH on the humanitarian situation in these communities continues to be essential in informing a better response on the ground, enabling actors on the ground to prioritise aid, create advocacy for the delivery of convoys and being able to inform early warning systems for those reaching particularly critical stages.
Photo: a mother loads food supplies as the family prepares to move out to safer town within besieged East Ghouta, Syria. ©UNICEF/Amer Al Shami (December 2015)