SEATTLE — As the Syrian Civil War enters its fifth year in 2018, the humanitarian emergency in the country remains a serious issue. Despite gains made by U.S. and Russian-led coalition forces during the battles of Aleppo and Raqqa, the final stages of the war are crucial with regards to the protection of civilians, refugees and displaced individuals who face the threat of poverty, human rights violations and mass displacement.
Since 2011, more than 400,000 individuals have lost their lives in the conflict. A total of 5.5 million people are refugees, and a further 6.1 million continue to be displaced from their home cities. Due to heavy bombing in many parts of Syria like Aleppo, Homs and Daraya, a further 400,000 civilians still remain trapped in major rebel enclaves throughout Syria.
Recently, the Syrian Civil War has become the battleground for a number of different fronts, including U.S. coalition forces, Sunni Arab groups, Russia, the Syrian Democratic Forces and other key regional players.
Moreover, infrastructure is largely in decline in many disputed areas of Syria, including Eastern Ghouta, Afrin, Saqba, Zamalka, Jobar, Hamouria, Kafr Batna and Douma. In the city of Jobar, 93 percent of the buildings have been devastated due to air strikes and more than 75 percent of civilians in the city have been forced to flee their homes.
The humanitarian crisis is causing considerable food shortages as well. According to a report by the BBC, the price of bread in Eastern Ghouta is now 22 times the national average in Syria.
In addition, based on Red Cross findings, Eastern Ghouta is in dire need of emergency and medical services despite the many initiatives being conducted by Doctors Without Borders. Eastern Ghouta, a major site of war crimes in recent years, including the 2013 chemical weapons attack, is home to 400,000 people and is a major contributor to the country’s GDP.
Overall, at this juncture, mitigating the negative effects of the Syrian Civil War is of vital importance. The restoration efforts in important cities begin with repairing critical infrastructure and repairing water and electricity services.
Additionally, channeling aid to the front lines in Syria is particularly important, yet dangerous given the intensity of the air strikes by rebel and government forces. To counter this hindrance, collaborative efforts with the government should be a priority so that important humanitarian aid convoys can reach civilians with greater ease.
Aid emergency services are often under insurmountable pressure due to bombardment by coalition forces, and conditions must be made smoother and safer in the future. The U.N. still seeks approval from the government to provide 40 trucks of humanitarian contributions to the town of Douma.
As a cessation of hostilities and a final solution to ending the Syrian Civil War remains elusive with a collapse of a recent U.N. brokered 30-day truce, Russia has recently declared a temporary “pause” to ensure the safe passage of humanitarian aid into the country and combat the omnipresent threat civilians face in many disputed areas. If the “pause” continues to be upheld, the many trapped civilians will be able to leave besieged areas faster.
Despite the alleged diversion of foreign aid over the years, it could still remain an effective temporary short-term measure in some ways, given the magnitude of the conflict. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced that Russia would be utilizing the recently created “humanitarian corridor” to channel aid to Syria.
To conclude, the success in addressing key issues regarding humanitarian aid and assistance to Syria will pave the way for further steady progress. As key towns and cities are recaptured and liberated, rescue operations and restoration initiatives can be undertaken with greater ease in the near future.
– Shivani Ekkanath