Displaced population from Afrin face dire conditions

137,070 people have been displaced from Afrin in north west Syria since the beginning of Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch on Jan. 20, according to the updated numbers published by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on Thursday. 

The displaced population moved to the Tall Refaat area, Nabul and Zahraa, Fafin, and surrounding villages and the majority rely on humanitarian aid to meet their basic survival needs, said the OCHA update.

The displaced people are staying in abandoned houses, sometimes in mosques and schools or sheltering in the open in Tall Refaat, while the ones in other places are in collective shelters which authorities plan to move to Tall Refaat area.

“The internally displaced population are not allowed to proceed to Aleppo where many have relatives or houses, and where there is greater capacity for the humanitarian community to assist them with shelter,” said OCHA.

The medical services are also far from sufficient as there is only one hospital available with twelve beds. Medical evacuation to Aleppo is possible in cases of emergency but the approval for evacuation may take up to 20 days.

OCHA noted that there were reports of displaced people “being prevented from returning to Afrin” despite some expressed their willingness to do so and called all concerned authorities to ensure the internally displaced population “the right to freedom of movement, whether to seek safety, shelter, medical treatment or to return to their homes”.

Turkey launched its “Operation Olive Branch” on Jan. 20 to push the Syrian Kurdish militia, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), out of  Afrin. Turkey says the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military wing, the YPG, which controlled Afrin, are an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been fighting inside Turkey for more than 30 years. Turkish forces and Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters seized the control of Afrin city centre on Mar. 18, and the Kurdish authorities announced that they evacuated the majority of the population the day before Turkish forces entered into the city in order to avoid an humanitarian crisis.