UNLESS the world powers “use all their influence” to stop the crisis in Syria, its people will continue to suffer irreversibly from violence, poverty, and the compounding devastation brought by the pandemic, 35 international aid agencies have warned on the tenth anniversary of the conflict.
Pro-democracy demonstrations erupted ten years ago next Monday in the southern city of Deraa, and spread nationwide after deadly government retaliation (News, 29 April 2011). Opposition supporters took up arms in their defence, and later to drive out the security forces. The violence escalated, and the country descended into a civil war that has resulted in the displacement of millions of Syrians, while most of the remaining residents live in extreme poverty.
The aid agencies, which include Christian Aid, CAFOD, CARE International, Caritas Germany, and World Vision, write: “A decade of conflict in Syria risks creating further irreversible impact to millions of displaced civilians and on the region unless world powers use all their influence to stop the crisis. There continues to be violence and indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure.”
Food insecurity afflicts more than 12.4 million people, and a further 1.8 million are at risk of it, they write, while 12.2 million Syrians lack regular access to clean water, and 2.4 million children are out of school.
“The Covid-19 global pandemic has only exacerbated the human suffering. Vital infrastructure, such as hospitals, schools, markets, homes, and roads, have been damaged or destroyed throughout the conflict. Many that are still standing have become shelters for those displaced by the conflict.
“Syrians are also facing rising inflation as a result of the declining value of the Syrian pound, widespread unemployment, and increasingly common fuel shortages. Basic goods are no longer affordable for many, forcing families to reduce the amount of meals they put on the table, or trade what little food they do have for medicine.”
An estimated 5.6 million Syrians remain displaced in neighbouring countries in desperate need of humanitarian assistance, of whom 2.5 million are children; and 6.2 million Syrians remain internally displaced in different parts of Syria. Resettlement has been slow, and few have legal protection or livelihood opportunities, the aid agencies write.
Their statement continues: “We call on the international community to step up its aid to Syrians across the country and in refugee-hosting countries and recognise its responsibility to support refugees. Cross-border access into Syria must be maintained, and humanitarian access within the country must also be strengthened. . .
“We must allow Syrians to live a better life where income-generating opportunities, repaired homes, functioning public infrastructure, clean water, basic services, and hope for the future are existent and accessible to all — otherwise the impact of a decade of conflict will be irreversible.”