Civilian suffering in Syria should end
Civilians in Syria have been suffering too much for too long and aggravation of the conflict will only worsen their plight. Facing freezing temperatures and incessant bombing, more than 900,000 civilians in Syria’s north-west have now been forced into ever smaller areas in search of safety, as per United Nations officials, and the rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation is a huge cause for worry. The world cannot shut its eyes when thousands of helpless civilians, particularly women, elderly and young children, many who have been displaced multiple times, are left dying in the freezing temperatures. The Syrian conflict is now in its ninth year and has ravaged the lives of millions of people since it started in 2011. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has recorded the deaths of more than 380,000 people. According to its toll in January, those killed included more than 115,000 civilians, of whom 22,000 were children. Save The Children has stated that seven children, including a baby only seven months old, have died in freezing temperatures and dire conditions in the camps. Those families who could take some of their belongings as they fled from their homes are reportedly burning whatever they could find, including pieces of furniture and whatever can be spared to stay warm for a short while. What can rattle the collective conscience of humanity more than the fact that disability rates have increased in some parts of the country to reach up to 30 per cent of the population — double the world average? As per the World Health Organization, at least 45 per cent of people wounded in the conflict will live with a permanent disability.
The fighting has pushed more than half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million from their homes. The UN said in February 2020 the number of refugees abroad has reached 5.5 million, while more than 6 million people are displaced within Syria. The conflict has caused the biggest population displacement since World War II. With over one million Syrian children orphaned since the fighting began, a huge question mark remains about their future. Living in Syria means bombs can go off at any time. So much so that Abdullah, a father of a four-year-old girl living in Idlib, has created a game to make it easy for his daughter to deal with the sound of bombs. Abdullah’s game is centred around the sound of bombs, each time one goes off, he and his daughter laugh. This serves as a coping mechanism for the little girl, so she doesn’t get scared and cry. Since Jan.1, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has confirmed 299 civilian deaths in Idlib. Civilian suffering has been compounded by the fact that apart from health facilities, schools, residential areas, mosques and markets being hit, schools have also been suspended and many health facilities closed. One can imagine the plight especially of children and the elderly in such a terrifying situation. Even aid workers’ equipment and facilities are being damaged in the fighting while humanitarian workers themselves are being displaced and killed. Humanitarian workers should be allowed to respond to the massive needs of civilians in compliance with international humanitarian law. All parties should take serious efforts to safeguard civilian lives and protect civilian infrastructure, including medical and educational facilities, in accordance with international humanitarian law and human rights law.