DAMASCUS, Syria – Few things are clear on the crisis that currently envelopes Syria. It has been deemed a civil war by most, with rebel forces attempting to overthrow the long standing Assad regime. It has been underway since 2011, and much like the conflicts in Egypt and Libya, it was an off shoot of the Arab Spring that swept the region beginning in 2010.
Only two months ago this country’s conflict was nearly the lynchpin domino in a Geo-political house of cards that could have resulted in a World War III scenario. There are still many conflicting reports on who exactly was responsible for the chemical weapons attack that brought the issue to a boiling point.
Although that specific facet of this ongoing crisis seems to have passed as reports have stated the Assad regime has handed over it’s chemical weapon stockpiles to the UN.
One thing however is certain, no matter what the news pundits say, or how the editorial pieces of various news outlets attempt to frame the conflict. It now has become the largest humanitarian crisis currently taking place. “Syria has become the great tragedy of this century.” Antonio Guterres UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
With an estimated population of 22.5 million people, the UNHCR has stated that roughly five thousand civilians are leaving the country every day. Some of the more reliable statistics state that over 1.5 million registered refugees have fled the country, 5 million are internally displaced, and over 40% of the population is in need of some form of aid. The horrid conditions have lent to an outbreak of polio, a disease previously on a downward trend.
Over one hundred thousand have died in the fighting, 60% of the healthcare capabilities have been reduced to zero and it is estimated that 30% of all infrastructure has been destroyed. Although accurate data is nearly impossible to acquire as the conditions on the ground are too violent to allow proper data collection. As such it is expected that most statistics likely under-represent the actual damage that has taken place.
Refugee camps have sprung up all over the surrounding countries such as Iraq, Turkey, Egypt and even the Gaza Strip. Most have made their way to over-flooded refugee camps in neighboring Jordan and Lebanon.
The latest reports have only added to the pessimism around the peace talks supposed to take place between President Assad and the Syrian National Coalition that represents the rebel uprising. With no end in sight to the violence, refugee camps like Zataari in Jordan with more than 100,000 refugees sheltered in its confines, have begun to turn people away, against international law. Humanitarian workers at these camps have begun to reach out to urban planners in attempts to make more permanent installations to cope with the crisis.
The UN recently increased its request of funds, including $4.4 billion from the U.S. for 2013 alone. This number has increased multiple times throughout the conflict and reflects the worsening situation on the ground for the Syrian people
Organizations such as UNHCR, IRC and The Red Cross are also marshaling as many funds to attempt to cope with the magnitude of the aid that is needed. You can visit these organizations websites to donate if you wish to help
– Tyler Shafsky
Sources: OCHA, Human Rights Watch, NPR, Al Jazeera