The “real people” behind the overwhelming humanitarian crisis in Syria

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The humanitarian community maintains that the priority remains “saving lives” but calls for thinking in the medium term

The ten years of war in Syria have plunged the country into a serious humanitarian crisis that today keeps 13.4 million people in need of help. The figures resemble the worst stages of the armed conflict and, as the UN recalls, behind them are “real people” with “real suffering.”

Of the 13.4 million people who need assistance – two out of every three people in Syria – more than six million are children, witnesses and victims of a war that many have not even seen start, since they have passed Ten years since what began as a process of revolts against the Government of Bashar al Assad has turned into an open war.

Around 4.8 million children have been born in Syrian territory in the last decade, to which one million more should be added if one takes into account those born to refugee families in neighboring countries. Still today some 5.6 million people are still outside Syria and some 6.7 million live as internally displaced persons.

The spokeswoman for the UN Office for Humanitarian Coordination in Syria, Danielle Moylan, admits that this is “the hardest part”, assuming that a whole generation knows nothing but a “terrible situation” that has only worsened in the past. last twelve months – the number of people requiring help has increased by 21 percent.

“To give it some perspective”, Moylan explains in an interview with Europa Press that the humanitarian situation is comparable to that of 2016, in the middle of the war. The incessant trickle of fighting that still persists, the economic collapse, the loss of the most basic ways of life and, now, the COVID-19 pandemic, have contributed to this deterioration.

Almost 90 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, a “very overwhelming” statistic that, as Moylan asserts, adds to the fact that six out of ten people are food insecure. And “it is possible this crisis is even worse,” she warns.

Not surprisingly, the price of the basic food basket has shot up 236 percent in the last year and is already 29 times the pre-war values.

Action Against Hunger (ACH) advocacy officer for Syria, Helene Michou, says that most families “have had to resort to harmful measures to deal with inflation and the exorbitant cost of basic products such as rice, wheat, semolina and oil.

The most common would be to reduce the number of meals per day or the size of the rations, although “many other families are having to sell the few remaining assets or even take their children out of school to try to find work.” The UN estimates that 2.4 million minors do not go to class.

MEDIUM-TERM VISION
The OCHA spokeswoman acknowledges that the number of refugees returning to Syria is still “very small”, but avoids assessing whether there may be a safe return at this point, understanding that it is a personal decision that these families must make.

The UN Secretary General, António Guterres, has repeatedly demanded the end of the conflict, a message to which Moylan also sticks, remembering in any case that the priority now is to continue “saving lives.” Humanitarian operations reached an average of 7.6 million people a month in 2020, but 20 percent of the population in need of help lives in areas where delivery is “complicated” at best.

The “full access” of aid remains a recurring demand for OCHA, which also insists on the importance of investing in other types of programs so that local communities can “rebuild their lives”, such as initiatives in water, education or sanitation.

The head of Action Against Hunger agrees that “the lack of access to basic services continues to require an emergency response”, but sees it necessary to contribute “to the resilience of the Syrian population” and the restoration of basic services “.” Without this medium-term approach “, he points out,” the situation of extreme vulnerability in an increasingly worse economic context will continue its vicious circle. “

In this sense, she calls for “finding a way to reduce dependence on humanitarian aid, strengthening the provision of grassroots services and supporting programs that allow Syrians to resume activities that generate income and dignity.” She emphasizes that the cessation of hostilities is still essential in certain areas, as well as working on “safe reintegration” processes for those who decide to return home and “alternative solutions” for those who do not.

NORMALIZE THE WAR
The Syrian conflict began at the dawn of the Arab Spring and remains unresolved ten years later – nor has any perspective for a short-term political solution. “Unfortunately, prolonged conflicts or crises often give rise to feelings of tiredness, exhaustion, and even indifference,” Michou tells Europa Press on behalf of ACH.

“If we add a global pandemic in the middle, it is normal that little attention is left for the situation in distant countries,” he adds, in the framework of an appeal to continue serving the most vulnerable and for the community to also assume its share of ” responsibility”.

For Michou, for his part, the 10th anniversary is “a good opportunity to remind people that the Syrian conflict is still active.” “If the world’s attention is gone, now is the time for it to return,” the OCHA spokeswoman said.

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