A report today from a coalition of 20 global aid agencies is drawing attention to the ongoing humanitarian crisis and conflict in Syria, especially concerning its effects on women, children, and refugees.
‘Failing Syria’, a comprehensive report outlining the human cost and international response to the crisis, can be found here.
Since 2011, a staggering number of civilians have been killed, injured, displaced, or otherwise harmed by the civil war in Syria.
Violence has increased even more quickly in the past year as rebels fighting Bashar-Al-Assad’s regime split into smaller, warring factions, including ISIS, The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
An infographic outlining the report’s findings can be found below: (click to enlarge)
Despite these numbers, global aid and security forces have so far failed to provide adequate assistance.
Al-Assad and rebel opposition forces have continuously and indiscriminately acted contrary to international humanitarian law, meaning they could be held to account by the International Criminal Court.
“It’s not a perfect system” says Lindsay Gladding, who works for World Vision Canada’s Humanitarian and Emergency Assistance team.
United Nations resolutions can only go so far, and no amount of pressure by UN member countries has so far brought about an end to the violence.
The United Nations Security Council has passed four separate resolutions condemning the actions of the conflict’s parties. The council has urged that UN member states pressure Syrian forces to stop attacking civilian infrastructure.
Despite this, violence has only continued to increase, and some groups have been disproportionately affected.
Women and Children
Civilian infrastructure such as hospitals, schools, and roadways have been targeted on a massive scale, creating a complete lack of social support for the population. Women and children are among those most affected.
Concerns facing women
- increased chance of sexual assault: women are left without family protection and often forced to travel long distances alone, on foot
- lack of access to health care – this is especially troubling for pregnant women in need of emergency obstetric care
- lack of opportunity for income, especially as many men are killed, imprisoned, or fighting: many families are forced to slowly sell off all their belongings to afford accommodations
Concerns facing children
- families who are unable to support their children are occasionally known to marry their daughters off at a very young age or leave their sons in the hands of the military
- 60 schools have been bombed or destroyed: there is nowhere safe for children to go
- as parents are killed, more children become orphaned and are left alone without any resources
- a huge number of Syria’s teachers have fled the country – there are very few opportunities left for education
In response to violence in Syria, close to 4 million people have fled the country and entered neighbouring Jordan and Lebanon.
Ann Witeveen, manager of Oxfam Canada’s Humanitarian Response Unit, says that most refugees are living in large camps or overcrowded, rented accommodations.
“It’s a very fragile existence,” says Witeveen.
While agencies work to provide basic necessities, today’s report notes that currently, only 57 per cent of funding needs are being met.
Concerns facing refugees
- overcrowding, both in refugee camps and in the towns that many now call home
- inadequate food and water supply and quality
- poverty and exploitation: most refugees are willing to take any work, even for less than the minimum wage
- resentment: many local Lebanese and Jordanian people are resentful and unwelcoming, angry the displaced Syrians are ‘stealing’ job opportunities and resources
Since 2011, Canada has given $683 million in humanitarian, development, and security assistance to Syria. Gladding acknowledges that Canada has been a “generous donor” but urges that as need increases, so must the country’s support.
“This crisis isn’t going away. It’s still there. It’s still growing, and we need to sustain if not increase our support.”
Witteveen hopes that today’s report will renew global efforts to end the war in Syria.
“This crisis is not getting better,” she says. “It’s getting worse and there are people who need our help”.
She hopes Canada will exercise its diplomatic clout: “We really need pressure put on these warring parties to come to the table and start talking about peace “
Image Courtesy: Wikipedia Media Commons