Thousands of displaced Syrians have started to return to war-torn Idlib province despite the risk of renewed conflict, some feared that the new coronavirus will wreak havoc in overcrowded camps near the border Turkish.
About a million Syrians fled Idlib and its surrounding countryside in north-western Syria last year after government forces backed by Russia intensified a campaign to retake the last rebel stronghold after nine years of war.
Fighting has calmed down since March when Ankara, which supports groups opposed to President Bashar al-Assad, agreed to a ceasefire with Moscow, which supported Damascus with significant air power.
North-western Syria has not yet had a confirmed case of coronavirus, but doctors fear that the region’s ravaged medical infrastructure and overflowing camps will quickly turn any epidemic into a humanitarian disaster.
As provisional peace continues, displaced Syrians face grim options: stay in tight camps with few services where viral spread could be fatal, or return to homes still at risk of further bloodshed .
“Our lives are going from danger to danger as we flee the bombing, the regime and the conflicts, overcrowding and the coronavirus,” said Abu Abdo, 45. On Sunday, Abdu returned with his family of seven to a village in the countryside of Idlib.
“Here, this is farmland and the air is clean and there is no congestion, but it is still a danger area,” he said.
Vans and trucks full of mattresses and household appliances blocked a southbound winding road in Idlib province on Sunday as families chased away by air strikes a few months earlier sought to return.
“We fear a further escalation of the regime, but life in the city, at home, is better than displacement and bad conditions,” said Fayez al-Assi, 49, who fled Jabal al-Zawiya in the countryside. south of Idlib two years and over. half a month ago.
The Syrian Response Coordination Group, a relief agency in northwestern Syria, said 103,459 Syrians had returned to the countryside cities of Aleppo and Idlib since the ceasefire.
“Even if there is bombing, we are not afraid of it. We are used to it,” said Zakaria Shawish, 25, from the city of Ariha, south of Idlib. “Sitting here under the bombing is better than being moved to the camps and not having a house.”