Syria: Civilians forced to flee Al Safira under heavy bombardment

25 Oct 2013
Press release

More than 130,000 people have fled the district of Al Safira, in Aleppo province, which has been under violent attack since 8th October. There is currently insufficient humanitarian aid to meet the massive, and growing, needs of these displaced people, the international medical organisation Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said today.

Fighting, shelling and aerial attacks have killed 76 people in the city of Al Safira in the space of five days, and wounded 450 people across the district.

The wounded were admitted to local medical facilities supported by MSF. MSF’s hospital in the region has treated 34 wounded patients from Al Safira.

Extremely violent attacks

"These extremely violent attacks have pushed people who have already fled once into a new exodus," says Marie-Noëlle Rodrigue, MSF’s director of operations.

More than 130,000 people, almost all civilians from the city of Al Safira or from camps in the surrounding area, where MSF provided assistance, have fled north.

"They are arriving in areas which are already packed with displaced people, and where the few humanitarian organisations which work there are faced with huge needs,” says Rodrigue.

In the city of Manbij, volunteers from the Red Crescent had registered nearly 200,000 displaced people before this new influx.

They estimate the number of new arrivals at around 100,000, but have stopped registering people because they having nothing to offer them.

Families are sheltering in public buildings, local farms and buildings under construction, without doors or windows.

In some cases, up to 10 families are packed into one apartment.

Other families have been installed in a hastily-built camp on a former parking lot, with just one latrine. Most fled with nothing and are now destitute, with a second winter of war ahead.

Victims of bombings

Civilians are the direct victims of bombings, and also find themselves with very limited access to medical care, as health facilities east of Aleppo city are being targeted.

On 21st October, a barrel of TNT was dropped from a helicopter onto a field hospital in the town of Blat, leaving the hospital unusable. On 10th September, Bab El field hospital was bombed. The attack left 11 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 with chemical weapons,” says Dr Mego Terzian, president of MSF.

“It’s vital that political and administrative obstacles to the provision of aid in areas not controlled by the government are lifted.”

MSF is striving to provide emergency assistance to people who have been wounded and displaced. But there is insufficient aid to meet people’s needs, says MSF, and mobilising other humanitarian organisation is a matter of urgency.

MSF in Syria

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

Find out more about MSF's work in Syria