A humanitarian disaster looms for the millions of refugees who fled Syria from either the brutality of ISIS or the relentless attacks on villages and towns by the Assad regime. News has emerged that vital aid from the West via the UN is being suspended and as winter begins these refugees will soon be facing a food crisis and possibilities of disease on a massive scale. The numbers of refugees in the region are staggering, with over a million in Jordan, a similar number in Lebanon and another million housed in camps in Turkey, Egypt and Iraq.
The UN World Food Programme – which is the main food programme for refugees – will not be providing any further food vouchers to refugees from Syria after it was revealed that funding for the programme has dried up. It is estimated that around three million refugees in the region may be affected. Come January, if there is no reprieve for the programme the fear is that local resources via the Red Crescent and similar charities will be insufficient to meet needs and that many refugees will either starve or be prone to serious health problems.
The withdrawal of aid by donors is undoubtedly related to the uncertainty in the region which sees ISIS losing little ground, the US-backed Iraq Government still perceived as Shia dominated, the Assad regime unbowed, and a weakened FSA (Free Syrian army). Many aid agencies in the West are fearful of offering support while that uncertainty remains but also while aid workers continue to be placed at direct risk of attack.
Meanwhile those Yezidis who managed to find their way off Sinjar mountain back in September now live in mostly makeshift camps, half-finished buildings and under bridges in the Kurdish area of northern Iraq. Smaller numbers have fled to Silopi in Turkey and to Al-Hasakah in Syria, where there is relative – albeit temporary – safety. However, it has been estimated that over one thousand Yezidis are still being held prisoners by ISIS: most are women or girls and boys younger than 12 – the cut-off age for Islamic State execution.
Click here to see an earlier report by Refugees International, including recommendations to UNHCR on the Syrian refugee problem in Jordan and northern Iraq.