At least 271,356 Syrians have returned to northwestern Idlib after a Turkey-Russia brokered cease-fire came into force in March.
"The civilians, who fled the attacks of the Bashar Assad regime and its backer Russia, continue to return," according to Mohammed Hallaj, head of the Response Coordination Group in Idlib. "Around 54,271 families have returned to Idlib, its surroundings and nearby Aleppo province."
However, they still depend heavily on humanitarian aid. Others, that still fear the Assad regime, take their chances of survival in overcrowded camps in safer areas near the Turkish border. People at these camps live mostly in poor conditions, with insufficient hygiene, food, water and other basic needs, due to lack of international assistance.
Fires often tear through the overcrowded tent camps, costing many lives. Most recently, some 20 tents caught fire in the village of Deir Hassan on Saturday evening. Another risk both the civilians who returned to Idlib and those staying in camps face is the coronavirus pandemic.
As the fight against the coronavirus continues around the world, vulnerable groups, particularly refugees, face greater risk due to the dire conditions at camps, making them potential hot spots for outbreaks. Displaced Syrians top the list of these vulnerable groups due to their large number and the country's collapsed infrastructure and health care system.
The United Nations, several humanitarian groups and Turkey have been trying to address the needs of the people; yet efforts remain insufficient and lack wider international attention.
The population of the province had gradually increased with many people running from regime attacks and terrorist torture. However, the displacement of civilians has intensified since mid-December when the Russian-backed Assad regime started a new assault to seize the last opposition bastion.
It is estimated that over 1 million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border due to intense attacks over the last year, while half of this number was displaced after November 2019. After heightened tensions, Russia and Turkey in March reached an agreement to halt violence and the flow of displacement.
In Syria's northwest, some 3 million people are trapped in a shrinking opposition stronghold battered by months of bombardment, especially in Idlib. Hundreds of thousands of people in overcrowded settlements are teeming with fresh arrivals, and many of the displaced are forced to sleep in freezing temperatures in open spaces.
The camps in northwest Syria are densely populated. There is insufficient relief reaching them, and the health and education sectors struggle to provide the required services.
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