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No End in Sight to the Syrian Humanitarian Crisis

Aerial assaults executed by the Syrian government continue to plague cities and towns such as Ghouta, Afrin, and Damascus. The success against anti-regime forces is shadowed by the indiscriminate harm inflicted upon non-combatant Syrian civilians.

According to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 45,000 Syrians in Eastern Ghouta have been uprooted from their homes so far this year, as a result of the various power struggles occuring in the country. The briefing highlights that many of those displaced are being accommodated in schools, facilities, and other buildings, albeit in squalid conditions.

 Civilians carrying a body in Eastern Ghouta | Bassam Khabieh/Reuters

Civilians carrying a body in Eastern Ghouta | Bassam Khabieh/Reuters

From congestion to overcrowding, and from malnourishment to lack of basic sanitation, clothing, and lighting, the candid report shines a light upon the most pressing humanitarian crises currently plaguing the Syrian populace.

Additionally, the briefing describes how UNHCR has provided ongoing assistance, which has included mattresses, blankets, solar lamps, and official documents for newly born children and other unregistered persons. These items are meant to help displaced Syrians meet their basic human needs. Importantly, the official report stated that the agency has provided 180,000 core relief items thus far, which is an important step toward providing stability, safety, and sustainability of life. Even with this critical help from UNHCR and similar agencies and organizations, many Syrians still fall victim to their circumstances.

While the Assad regime intends for airstrikes to destroy Islamic State (ISIL) and rebel strongholds, targeting rebels that hide amongst “soft targets”, such as schools, residences, and hospitals, also severely impacts civilians. Near Damascus, at least 200 people were killed by airstrikes in February 2018 alone.

Brigadier General Suheil al-Hassan publicly stated that he would “teach [rebels] a lesson, in combat and in fire,” additionally relaying that they “won’t find a rescuer.” His tough talk is meant to inspire pro-regime forces, and civilians loyal to the Assad regime. Such rhetoric demonstrates a strong desire to defeat the rebels, and this end-goal seems to take precedence over the lives of civilians caught in the crossfire.

 Wounded girl receiving treatment in Ghouta | Ammar Suleiman/AFP

Wounded girl receiving treatment in Ghouta | Ammar Suleiman/AFP

As the lives of non-combatant civilians are devalued in this way, they become dispensable. Consequently, such individuals not only suffer from the attacks, but also from the infrastructural deficiencies created by the war.

Notably, attacks on hospitals, dwindling or else non-existent medical supplies, and related insufficiencies complicate efforts to heal the sick and wounded. As a result, the effects of epidemics and related health crises have been augmented, which in turn has led to further instability.

Such infrastructural failures tend to compound one another, and multiply as the conflict continues to broil. Indeed, the egregious effects of the prolonged disorder in Syria are devastating and relentless.