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“‘Don’t be afraid’ isn’t working anymore” – Testimonies from families in Idlib

Civilians describe escalating air strikes and people forced to flee in the open – spokesperson available.

Testimonies have been gathered from Idlib, where one million children are in the path of a potential military assault that the UN has said could provoke ‘the worst humanitarian catastrophe of the 21st century’. Save the Children’s teams have spoken to civilians who describe children, many of whom have already endured the horrors of more than 7 years of war, terrified of escalating air strikes and people being forced to flee in the open not knowing when bombs will fall.

In North-West Syria Save the Children continue to support extensive humanitarian programmes through Syrian partner organisations. That includes running primary healthcare clinics and a maternity hospital, vaccination and food security programmes, supporting a network of schools and carrying out child protection work.

Omar* is a father of five. He and his family fled West Aleppo in early 2017. He has been working with a local NGO since he arrived in Idlib. Save the Children’s local partner provided Omar with vital animal feed for his livestock.  He said:

“Children are living in fear, they get terrified even when a tire blows out close by a camp! ‘Don’t be afraid’ is not working anymore. They’ve seen things with their own eyes; their brother getting killed, their father, or a relative.

“The displacement has already started. The airplanes are here in the southern parts of the suburbs of Idlib. People are escaping to the north, because there are no airplanes there. People are heading there, worried for their children.

“Airstrikes have no mercy, not for a child or for an old man or a woman, women and children are particularly terrified because they’ve been through this in the past years.”

Ahmed* and his family of ten recently fled fighting elsewhere in Idlib. He is a father and formerly worked as a vet and has been working with Save the Children partners in Idlib, helping farmers who are struggling to keep livestock alive to feed their families. He said:

“More than twelve airplanes and helicopters bombarded the civilian areas in the southern parts, and more and more displaced people are on the move towards the northern parts where there are less airstrikes”

“People have very bad feelings about what’s coming… they are afraid of a potential massacre against women and children and innocent civilians. Added to this, there is no safe place to go. Idlib is the last place where people can go to.

“And now, the people who are moving are left out in the open, as the airplanes are attacking the area where there is over two hundred towns and villages with population over three hundred thousand people”

Download full audio files and transcripts: https://www.contenthubsavethechildren.org/Package/2O4C2SGN75ZM#/SearchResult&ALID=2O4C2SGN75ZM&VBID=2O4CGMYH7DVG

George Graham, Save the Children’s Director of Conflict and Humanitarian Advocacy, said:

“One million children are trapped in Idlib facing what could be the greatest humanitarian catastrophe in the long and bloody history of Syria’s seven-year war.

“Save the Children’s partners in Idlib are on the humanitarian front line providing lifesaving healthcare, helping families get enough to eat, ensuring children continue to get an education and helping them to stay protected.

“There is still time to avert this disaster. We once again call on the international community and all parties involved to work to find a political solution and uphold their obligations to ensure children and other civilians are protected. The suffering of Syria’s children must be brought to an end.”

*Name changed to protect identity