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Deir Ezzor: "The fighting may be over but the danger is still present"

Explosive weapons
Syria

On 3 November 2017, the armed forces took back control of the town of Deir Ezzor in Syria.[1] The fighting inside and surrounding the city lasted several months, creating numerous civilian victims and displacing over 300,000 people. Handicap International (HI) is gravely concerned about the situation in the field. 

 

[1] Syrian armed forces, Syrian Democratic Forces (FDS) and coalition.  

Talal and his family are Syrian refugees in Lebanon fleeing the war in their country. | © E.Fourt/HI

"Between September and November 2017, the city of Deir Ezzor and surrounding area was the theatre of intense fighting, marked by the intensive use of explosive weapons. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have had no choice but to flee, many others have been injured or killed in the conflict. Although the active fighting in the city ended over a month ago, its consequences and the resulting dangers are still very present for the population," says Florence Daunis, HI's Director of Operations.

Intense bombing of populated areas

With populated areas experiencing fighting daily over a period of several weeks, many civilians have been injured in the city of Deir Ezzor. "Most patients in the region's hospitals are the victims of explosive weapons," indicates Florence Daunis. "Many of them are from the governorate of Deir Ezzor and have fractures, amputations and even serious burns, caused by bombing and explosions. Some were injured in the city and some were injured whilst trying to flee. Many of the people who fled have reported continuous airstrikes and a grave lack of security for civilians."

"The planes and fighting didn't ever seem to stop," explains Falah, a displaced person from Deir Ezzor, now sheltering in a camp. "We were bombed every hour of every day, over the last three months. We had no choice but to flee."

Hundreds of thousands of displaced persons

"The situation is also particularly complicated for the hundreds of thousands of displaced persons," remarks Florence Daunis. The city of Deir Ezzor had 300,000 inhabitants before the war and although the estimations vary, all sources agree that this number has dropped significantly. "In recent months, most of the people fleeing the fighting in Syria have been from the Deir Ezzor governorate," she explains. "Most of them have had to leave everything behind them and are living in extremely precarious conditions. The internally displaced persons camps in the region are overflowing and civilians increasingly have no choice but to set up small, informal camps, usually in hazardous areas still contaminated from the recent fighting. This represents a grave danger for these civilians and constitutes an additional challenge for humanitarian agencies who are finding it increasingly difficult to reach these populations, identify their needs and respond appropriately."

Deir Ezzor, a city littered with explosive remnants of war

Although the fighting has now ended in the city of Deir Ezzor, the risks and dangers are still very present. "As in the neighbouring city of Raqqa, the fighting has left behind an area extensively contaminated with unexploded ordnance and improvised explosive devices, often extremely dangerous for the population," explains Florence Daunis.  It is therefore vital that the inhabitants' awareness of the dangers of explosive remnants of war is raised in order to avoid further accidents. In addition to risk education activities, providing humanitarian assistance to vulnerable people who have been injured or displaced by the fighting is a top priority.

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