Refugees and residents in the Afrin district of Syria are trapped between warring parties on the border with Turkey without any protection or proper medical supplies, Oxfam warned today.
The international agency called for safe access for humanitarian relief as the co-chair of the Health Council in Afrin province reported that civilians there were suffering from daily attacks, with about half of those killed being people who had already fled their homes. Recent fighting had left more than 140 people dead and 310 injured, she said.
Angela Rasho, co-chair of the Health Council in Afrin province, said: "Medical supplies are inadequate, especially surgical supplies, because of the increasing number of wounded. There has been a serious shortage of medical staff who have spread out to different locations to relieve the pressure on Afrin's main hospital and allow it to focus on serious operations such as limb amputations. We appeal to all humanitarian organizations to help the people of Afrin."
Oxfam in Syria warned that more than 5,000 people are now displaced because of the recent surge in fighting in Afrin. There are limited supplies of food, water and medicine. Routes out of the district have been blocked off, leaving people wanting to flee with nowhere to go. Families trying to escape the city have reportedly been forced by local fighters to pay an "exit fee" of $100 per vehicle. This is a prohibitively expensive demand for many people, who have already lost their homes and livelihoods.
Oxfam's Country Director in Syria, Moutaz Adham, said, "The latest surge in the violence opens a terrifying new chapter in the lives of people in Afrin, many of whom fled to this region to escape fighting in other parts of Syria. Dozens of civilians are reported to have been killed in the cross-fire between warring parties. Thousands of people, including babies, young children, pregnant women and the elderly, are now trapped, facing a terrifying and potentially deadly situation.
"Many people are in desperate need of humanitarian aid, so international agencies need to have safe access so they can bring in food and medical supplies that are fast running out. We urge all warring parties to minimize the risks of harming the lives and destroying the homes of thousands of trapped civilians. In the name of humanity, these people who have suffered so much already should be allowed to safely escape the violence."
One father of five children described how he, like many others, is left feeling abandoned and helpless. He said: "I feel I am of no value. No-one is coming to help us. I didn't realize our lives were so cheap."
Another, a father of six children, told Oxfam: "I have no place to go."