How much more bloodshed and brutality must Syria endure before the world fulfils its moral duty?

A traumatised population has suffered long enough. Countries who have influence in Syria should be doing much more to deliver desperately needed humanitarian aid

Share
Related Topics

The last two months have seen a dramatic increase in the crisis in Syria with reports of thousands of people killed, countless injured and over 100,000 people fleeing the country. Last Wednesday saw the bloodiest day to date with 343 reported killed as the UN announced that between 2-3,000 people are leaving Syria each day. Since the onset of the crackdown in March 2011, over 10% of the Syrian population have been forced from their homes. Over a quarter of a million Syrians - including unaccompanied children - have become refugees, crossing to dusty temporary camps in neighbouring Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and beyond.

The vast majority of Syrians remain displaced inside the country. For these people daily life is characterised by ongoing suffering as they try to flee the violence whilst facing a lack of suitable shelter, dramatic increases in the price of food and shortages of access to basic hygiene. Medical facilities are disintegrating on a daily basis and many civilians caught up by the conflict are dying due to lack of adequate care. Clinics are destroyed or occupied by armed groups, medical supplies denied and treatment for patients with chronic conditions interrupted.

Trauma

Syrians are struggling with the trauma of what they’ve been through and seen: massacres, aerial bombardment and the loss of loved ones. Briefing the United Nations Security Council in September, Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN Arab League joint envoy to the conflict, warned of an upcoming food crisis in the country. Relief agencies regularly highlight that the existing humanitarian response in Syria is insufficient: The valiant Syrian Red Crescent does not have the capacity or the extensive logistics needed to meet the needs of displaced Syrians. 

For more than 18 months, as the violence in Syria continues to worsen, the international community remains divided as governments accuse each other of being motivated only by either pro or anti-regime sentiment. This has led to both political gridlock and an increasingly militarized conflict with innocent Syrian civilians the biggest losers. The most important goal is to get the Syrian government to stop its attacks across the country and establish a durable ceasefire, stopping the violence from all sides.

However, if impartial international humanitarian organisations from west and east were allowed access, their skills and expertise could significantly mitigate the impact of violence and alleviate the suffering being endured by hundreds of thousands of Syrians. Such organisations could provide essential medical relief, distribute food, re-establish water supplies and care for vulnerable civilians, guided by the principles of humanity and Geneva Conventions, in a separation from the political agenda. They could also link with and significantly strengthen the work of grassroots local Syrian civil society organisations that have emerged over the past year and a half to play a vital humanitarian role and have unique connections to the local population.

Gridlock

Countries like Indonesia and Brazil have the influence and capacity to act as a bridge between the gridlocked powers and should lead efforts to press the Syrian government to lift restrictions on independent humanitarian organisations that can provide the specialist capacity needed to address the worsening situation. Such a decision would signal that the international community is no longer willing to allow the welfare of hundreds of thousands of displaced and vulnerable people in Syria to be held hostage to ongoing political deadlock. With the harsh Syrian winter approaching a bad humanitarian situation will get very quickly worse unless action is taken.

In early September the new Head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer, met with President Assad. Following their discussions the Syrian government made it known that ''the President confirmed he is in favour of Red Cross action on the ground, as long as it's conducted independently and in a neutral manner''. The Russian and the Chinese governments have also stressed that aid to Syria must be in strict compliance with the humanitarian principles of neutrality and impartiality.

Yet requests by independent, impartial humanitarian organisations for permission to operate in Syria have been blocked, stalled by administrative demands by the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Organisations present in Syria are hampered by the Syrian authorities travel restrictions, preventing their deployment to parts of Syria where they are most needed.

September’s UN General Assembly meeting saw a variety of world leaders condemn the situation in Syria, yet the situation on the ground has continued to worsen. Now is the time to show the people of Syria that the international community is not simply a bystander to their tragedy. Countries with influence in Syria should see achieving unimpeded, safe and sustained humanitarian access to Syria not as a political choice, but rather a moral responsibility.  

Dr. Hany El-Banna is the President of Humanitarian Forum and a Co-Founder of Islamic Relief

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

LSA

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Randstad Education Group: To work as part of the Le...

KS1 Float Teacher needed in the Vale

£100 - £110 per day + Travel scheme plus free professional trainnig: Randstad ...

Science Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Are you a qualified secondary...

KS2 Float Teacher required in Caerphilly

£100 - £110 per day + Travel Scheme plus free professional training: Randstad ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: Gordon Brown’s finest hour, a letter from Quebec and the problem of anti-politics

John Rentoul
 

i Editor's Letter: The campaigning is over. So now we wait...

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week