Syria: More Than 100,000 Civilians Forced to Flee Amid Heavy Bombardment of Al Safira


PARIS/NEW YORK–More than 100,000 people have fled the district of Al Safira in Syria's Aleppo province, where dozens of people have been killed and hundreds wounded in shelling and bombings, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today. There is insufficient humanitarian aid to meet the massive and growing needs of the displaced.

Fighting, shelling and aerial attacks since October 8 have killed 76 people in the town of Al Safira. In the whole district, 450 people wounded in the space of five days were admitted to medical structures supported by MSF. The MSF hospital in the region has treated 34 wounded patients. At least 130,000 people, almost all civilians from Al Safira town and surrounding camps, have been displaced and have fled north.

"These extremely violent attacks have pushed people who have already fled once into a new exodus," said Marie-Noëlle Rodrigue, MSF director of operations. "The displaced arrive in areas which are already packed with other displaced people and where just a few humanitarian organizations are already faced with huge needs," she said.

In the city of Manbij in Aleppo province, volunteers from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent had already registered nearly 200,000 displaced persons before the latest influx. The lack of adequate shelter has forced people to crowd into public buildings and farms in the area. Partially built buildings, some without doors or windows, are sheltering up to 10 families in one apartment. Other families have been installed in a hastily built camp on a former parking lot, with just one latrine. All those who fled with nothing are now destitute and have to face a second winter of war.

In addition to enduring bombings, civilians find themselves with very limited access to medical care. Health facilities east of Aleppo city are targeted. On October 21, a barrel of TNT was dropped from a helicopter onto a field hospital in the town of Blat, rendering the hospital unusable. On September 10, a field hospital in Al Bab was bombed. That attack left 11 people dead and five wounded.

"The United Nations, as well as those countries with influence in the conflict, need to show the same determination to resolve the urgent aid issues as they have on the subject of chemical weapons," said Dr. Mego Terzian, president of MSF. "It is vital that political and administrative obstacles to the provision of aid in areas not controlled by the government are lifted."

While MSF is striving to provide emergency assistance to people who have been wounded and displaced, a much larger overall humanitarian response is required.

MSF teams made up of international and Syrian staff operate six hospitals and two health centers in the north of Syria. Between June 2012 and September 2013, MSF teams in Syria carried out 90,175 medical consultations, performed 4,491 surgical procedures, and assisted with 1,426 births.

This IDP camp in Al Safira district (Aleppo province) is empty. After the October attack, IDPs had fled north . MSF had distributed some tents to IDPs. A medical student was running an OPD set up with MSF support