ICRC says urgent action needed to address Syria humanitarian crisis
The International Committee of the Red Cross is urging urgent action to help Syria out of the humanitarian crisis it has been plunged in for years.
Communities in Syria have gone through war for over 12 years straight, and to top that off, they were hit by a devastating earthquake that increased humanitarian suffering in the country earlier in the year, the International Community of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Wednesday.
On February 6, a massive earthquake hit the region, leading to more than 55,000 deaths in Syria and Turkey. In light of the catastrophe, several Western countries mobilized rapidly to send aid and rescue workers to Turkey but decided to exclude Syria and neglect it, by only offering condolences and merely expressing readiness to support the affected Syrians, with efforts on the ground taking weeks to materialize.
The ICRC, using the EU's Seventh Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region, sent out a news release urging immediate action to address the critical situation faced by the people in Syria. "The cost of inaction would be unbearable, first and foremost for the populations," the ICRC argued.
The humanitarian organization named numerous crises facing Syria, such as the war waged on the country, the recent earthquake, rising inflation, recession, the destruction of homes, and the declining ability of hospitals to offer adequate care to those in need.
"Nearly 90% of Syrians live below the poverty line with more than 15 million needing humanitarian assistance, a trend that has been sustained over the past years," the press release said.
Syria's critical infrastructure is at risk of collapse, the press release added, highlighting that this was a "pressing concern". The importation of replacement parts needed for the maintenance of the infrastructure at hand in major cities, the release explained, was hindered by international sanctions Syria is facing,
The ICRC once again called for the implementation of the standing humanitarian exemptions within the sanctions regimes against the country, highlighting how it has long been doing so but its calls were yet to be answered.
"Most treatment plants are damaged and are operating at a reduced capacity, which has led to worryingly low levels of access to potable water," it added.
The ICRC noted that in the wake of the earthquake, it, alongside the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, stepped up in response to the growing needs of the people by providing essential relief items as well as health care, water, and mental health support,
"The ICRC, with the SARC, improved access to clean water and provided transformers to restore power supply," it added.
"The international community must confront the harsh reality that the current situation in Syria is untenable, and failure to act will have dire consequences for all those involved and hinder any prospects for sustainable recovery,” said Fabrizio Carboni, the ICRC’s regional director for the Near and Middle East.
Moreover, the ICRC regional chief underlined that the world could not "turn a blind eye to the suffering of the people in Syria. We must prioritize the preservation of critical infrastructure and provide comprehensive humanitarian responses."
Carboni added that "the collapse of these essential services is not a distant threat but very much possible, with devastating consequences for the Syrian people, if more isn’t done to help prevent it."
"By investing in meeting these vital needs, we can create a positive ripple effect. It will enable Syrians to at the very least gain access to a basic level of essential services," he said, noting that such services would contribute to the process of rebuilding Syria and bolstering the ability of humanitarian organizations to significantly enhance the effectiveness and impact of their assistance.
UNICEF's Humanitarian Situation Report published on February 6 in Syria revealed that the organization reached over 12.5 million people in 2022, including 3.9 million boys and 4.3 million girls in need of humanitarian assistance.
War-torn Syria is suffering from the US sanctions that have played a major role in deteriorating the country's social and economic situation. Syria was plagued with a Cholera and COVID-19 outbreak, along with a socio-economic crisis. It is crucial to mention the US's role in hurting the economy by looting Syrian oil, causing both direct and indirect losses to the tune of tens of billions of dollars.
In response, UNICEF announced it led the Water and Sanitation, Education, Nutrition Sectors/Clusters, and the Child Protection Area of Responsibility as well as the Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) Group and Risk Education Working Group.
By the end of the year, there had been a reported 70,220 cases of cholera outbreak.
UNICEF revealed it had procured 2 million doses of oral cholera vaccine used to vaccinate 1.9 million people in Aleppo, Deir ez-Zour, Al-Hasakeh, and Raqqa as well as providing supplies to 52 treatment centers to treat 11,700 severe cholera cases.
The cholera outbreak was declared on September 10. It quickly spread throughout the nation, endangering children, particularly those living in densely populated areas. By the end of the year, 70,220 cases had been reported throughout Syria.
The widespread destruction of water and sewage systems, power outages, a protracted drought, and population shifts, largely because of the war in Syria, are all linked to the outbreak.
According to the UNICEF report, 200,776 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 7,246 fatalities, have been reported in Syria since the start of the outbreak.
In addition, 39,258 cases from northeast Syria and 104,160 cases from northwest Syria were reported among these cases.
A recent report revealed that in northern and eastern Syria, food and water security are in danger due to Turkey's weaponization of the Euphrates River waters. The report underscored that "the plummeting level of the Euphrates, Syria’s longest river and one of the longest in the world, is causing power outages and water shortages in a region where agriculture is the main source of income."
Alouk water station
The UNICEF report also discusses the Alouk water station in Syria, which was out of service for 128 days in 2022, with 54 days of only partial service.
Since the end of 2019, these interruptions have caused over 460,000 people in Al Hasakah City and the surrounding areas to experience intermittent access to clean drinking water, in addition to a further 500,000 people in NE Syria.