Four years into the conflict, suffering in Syria continues despite UN resolutions.
For countless Syrians, deliberate attacks—including murder, rape, and torture—are the horrors they face every day as their country marks a fourth year of bloody conflict. Last year—2014—was the deadliest yet: about 76,000 people died, including thousands of children at least 160 of whom were killed in attacks on schools. About 220,000 people have lost their lives.
Millions of others have fled to neighboring countries and their ranks are expected to rise to 4.27 million by the end of this year. Today, of the Syrians left inside their country, about two-thirds of them need humanitarian assistance—an 80 percent increase from two years ago.
Children face a particularly harsh reality that will carry over into their futures as well: About a quarter of Syria’s schools have been damaged, destroyed, or taken over for other purposes, forcing about 1.6 million children to abandon their classes.
“I was in class when my school was hit,” recalled one eight-year-old student named Basma, who was quoted in the report. “We ran out of the school right away and I went back home, but my uncle went to the school and found out that many children had been injured. I have never seen my school or my friends again."
A failing grade for the Security Council
In a new report, “Failing Syria,” Oxfam and 20 other agencies detail the suffering Syrians have endured since the UN Security Council passed a series of resolutions last year calling for an urgent increase in humanitarian aid to the country and demanding that attacks against civilians stop.
The Security Council resolutions also call for a lift on the sieges of populated areas and authorized UN aid operations into Syria from neighboring countries without waiting for approval from the Syrian government. But in their report, the aid agencies have given a scathing critique of the security council’s powers and the failure to ease the suffering of Syrians.
Some assistance has been making its way into Syria from neighboring countries, but out of Syria’s 34 border crossings, only five are currently open for trucks carrying emergency supplies, nine are restricted, and the remainder are closed.
“The security council’s words now ring hollow,” said Andy Baker, who heads Oxfam’s response to the crisis. “What good is a resolution to a mother whose house has been bombed and children are hungry if it (the resolution) is ignored? It’s time for governments to stop fuelling the conflict, significantly scale up humanitarian assistance to meet people’s immediate needs, and push the warring parties towards a political solution.”
For one 20-year-old Syrian, the reality behind those “hollow words” is grim: “There is hardly any water and it is very expensive. Food prices have doubled and there has been no electricity for the last five months,” said Rami, who was quoted in the aid agency report.
Oxfam has been working with the Syrian Ministry of Water Resources, UNICEF, and other aid groups to help provide some of that desperately needed clean water. Projects have included repairing water systems, including wells, as well as trucking water to where it’s needed. We estimate that we have reached about one million people with water.
But most important is the full implementation of last year’s Security Council’s resolutions. Oxfam and the other organizations are calling for members of the UN, including permanent members of the Security Council, to ensure that happens.
“Russia, the US, and other states have the political and diplomatic influence to make the changes set out in the resolution real,” said Baker. “There is no more time to lose.”
We need to do all we can to push our leaders to forge a lasting peace in the region. Urge President Obama and Congress to help end the bloodshed in Syria.