Aid agencies warn of plight of civilians displaced within Syria
Over one and a half million people in Syria have been driven from their homes by conflict and are in dire need of humanitarian assistance, leading humanitarian organisations, including Save the Children warn.
Over one and a half million people in Syria have been driven from their homes by conflict and are in dire need of humanitarian assistance, leading humanitarian organisations including Save the Children and the Norwegian Refugee Council, and members of The Elders warned today in a letter to the United Nations and the League of Arab States. The letter comes days after former Algerian foreign Minister and diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi was appointed as Joint UN-Arab League Special Representative for Syria.
There are about ten times as many internally displaced people (IDPs) within Syria as there are registered refugees in neighboring countries, and yet they are not receiving the assistance or attention they need due to lack of access. Many of the displaced are being hosted by local communities but the growing number of those in need has now outstripped the capacity of local communities to support them. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people are living in very insecure conditions in public buildings such as schools, universities, mosques and churches.
“There is a danger that those displaced within Syria are being forgotten or overlooked. The violence and extreme restrictions on humanitarian access mean hundreds of thousands of people are at risk, especially pregnant women, children and the elderly. They are cut off from essential services and may not have enough to eat or drink. We urgently need to get into Syria to be able to help them,” said Mike Penrose, Save the Children’s Humanitarian Director.
Following the UN’s decision not to renew the mandate of its supervision mission in Syria, which expired Sunday, and Kofi Annan's decision to step down at the end of the month, aid agencies are urging the international community to urgently pursue an agreement with the Syrian authorities on securing humanitarian access to the country, and ensure sufficient funds are available.
The displacement crisis started in the countryside in the spring of 2011, following the protests in Damascus and the southern city of Daraa. It has now engulfed whole towns and cities, driving hundreds of thousands of people into further displacement, some people for the third or fourth time. Approximately 7% of the population is currently affected.
The large numbers of displaced are placing severe strains on host communities as they vie for increasingly scarce jobs and resources. Employment is hard to find, and agricultural activities have been severely disrupted resulting in an impending food crisis. Water shortages are also a grave concern. The FAO, WFP, and the Syrian Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform estimate that close to three million people will need assistance over the next three to six months.
“Innocent lives are being lost and thousands are suffering without help. We’re calling on the UN to remind all parties to the conflict of their legal obligation to prevent displacement and, where this is not possible, to ensure protection of internally displaced people. The Syrian government must allow access for humanitarian agencies as outlined in Annan’s six point plan, and international governments should ensure sufficient funding is available to support the humanitarian effort inside Syria. There is no time to lose,” said Elisabeth Rasmusson, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council.