The United Nations Chief has appealed for an additional 500 million dollars, almost 7.5 billion rand,  to cover the needs of newly displaced people due to the unfolding military escalation in Idlib, northwestern Syria.

The global organisation says close to one million people have recently fled their homes or shelters as a Syrian Government-led offensive seeks to retake the opposition-held city that has seen one of the largest exodus of people amid freezing conditions in the region.

With hostilities now approaching densely populated areas such as Idlib City, it has forced over 900 000 terrified people to flee on foot or on the back of trucks as the Syrian-Russian backed assault hems an increasing number of people into a shrinking space.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, “Nearly 900 000 people, the vast majority women and children, have fled in the latest fighting under the most tragic circumstances. Hundreds have been killed. Many have been uprooted multiple times. Young children are freezing to death. The fighting is now advancing into areas with the highest concentrations of people, including the displaced, and threatening to strangle humanitarian lifelines. International humanitarian law and the protection of civilians have been systematically ignored. As the space for safety shrinks further, the potential for human suffering grows worse.”

United Nations figures indicate some 2.8 million people in northwest Syria require humanitarian assistance forcing the organisation to adjust its plans by issuing an additional donor appeal to cover newly displaced persons over the next six months. While Idlib was established as a de-escalation zone in 2017 by late February 2019 this arrangement began to falter despite several ceasefire renewals that have failed to stem the military tide.

Guterres says, “All of this means that in addition to a dramatic and deteriorating humanitarian situation, we face the risk of an ever-more serious confrontation with increasingly unpredictable consequences. It is crucial to break the vicious circle of violence and suffering. I have repeatedly called for an immediate ceasefire in Idlib to end the humanitarian catastrophe and now also to avoid an uncontrollable escalation.”

The UN points to a series of Syrian Government ground offensives supported by Russian airstrikes while repeated clashes between Turkish and Syrian forces have further complicated the humanitarian response.

The Office for the Coordinator of Humanitarian affairs earlier said 60% of people trapped are children and called for an immediate ceasefire fearing a bloodbath; a message reiterated by Guterres.

“The message is clear: There is no military solution to the Syria crisis. The only possible solution remains political. This man-made humanitarian nightmare for the long-suffering people of Syria must stop. It must stop now.”

In just the latest attempt at a political solution, France and Germany have proposed a four-way summit with Turkey and Russia – who support opposing sides in the Syrian conflict.