THE UNITED NATIONS - Amidst concern for the safety and protection of more than three million civilians in Syria's last rebel-held enclave, the UN's most senior humanitarian and political affairs officials briefed the Security Council on Syria behind closed doors on Friday.
Following the recent escalation of hostilities on the ground in the country's northwest, Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock and the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, painted a dire picture of the deteriorating conditions.
"Nearly 300,000 people have been displaced from southern Idlib since 12 December, according to current estimates, with children and women being the most affected", UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters in New York. "Over half of the displaced, at least 175,000, are children".
He spelled out that the city of Ma'arrat An-Numan and its surrounding areas are reported to be "almost empty of civilians as families flee north to safety".
The new displacements add to over 400,000 women, children and men who were displaced by hostilities between the end of April and early December, many of them multiple times.
Over that same period, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) recorded over 1,330 civilian deaths.
"Winter conditions are exacerbating the dire humanitarian situation", said Mr. Haq. "Families are fleeing in torrential rain and temperatures at night are close to freezing".
Moreover, the rain and cold are leaving those who had moved further north in an even worse situation, with many reported to be living in camps, unfinished or partially destroyed buildings, in tents, under trees and in the open.
Humanitarian agencies have provided emergency food and cash to over 180,000 of the newly displaced, according to the deputy spokesperson.
He also flagged that additional ready-to-eat rations for more than half a million people, for up to five days, had already been pre-positioned in anticipation of further displacement.
Situation deteriorating daily
At the media stakeout before the Council met, French Ambassador Nicolas de Rivière told reporters that the United Kingdom and France called for the session to "take stock on where we are".
"The situation in Idlib is deteriorating day after day", he said.
"We formally condemn indiscriminate bombing by the regime and its allies", such as civilian facilities that include a school and hospitals, and "it should stop", underscored the French Ambassador.
He also called for the preservation of humanitarian access in both the northeast and northwest of the country.