A military offensive on an opposition-controlled region of northwestern Syria has created one of the worst catastrophes for civilians in the country’s long-running war, and a bitter winter has compounded the pain.
The weather has contributed to at least 10 deaths, including four who suffered hypothermia, a family of four that died of suffocation in their tent and two who burned to death when their tent caught fire, according to Mohammed Hallaj, a coordinator for the area’s Response Coordination Group.
“The temperatures was no less than -8 or -9 degrees Celsius (15 degrees Fahrenheit) and this is rare in Syria,” a survivor said, speaking to The Associated Press from the Idlib town of Binnish.
The government’s Russian-backed assault on Idlib, the Syrian opposition’s last stronghold, has uprooted more than 830,000 people since Dec. 1, most of them fleeing toward safer areas near the border with Turkey, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. “Humanitarian needs are increasing exponentially,” Dujarric said. “The ongoing emergency compounds the already dire humanitarian situation for people in the northwest, who have been made vulnerable by years of crisis, violence, economic downturn and, of course, multiple displacements,” Dujarric said.
Around half the territory’s population had already been displaced from other parts of Syria, so formal camps are full.
“It’s cold, it’s snowing and our life is terrible, we can’t take this cold and neither can the kids,” said a woman, who identified herself by her nickname Um Muhammad, who recently fled and was staying at a tent camp near the Turkish border.