Syria, conflict and humanitarian crisis

 A child in a refugee camp  A child in a refugee camp © Photo by Ahmed Akacha on Pexels

This article is a brief presentation of the 2020 Humanitarian Needs Overview for Syria, based on analysis of UN and its humanitarian partners

The 2020 Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) for Syria provides an extensive examination of the situation of the country throughout the period between July 2019 and March 2020. The data, information and findings enshrined in the document are grounded on independent analysis carried out by the United Nations and its humanitarian partners. However, it must be clarified that the Syrian Government has expressed some reservations as to both the sources used to collect figures and the trustworthiness of the findings.

According to the HNO, more than 11 million Syrian people were in need of humanitarian assistance in 2020, half of which in desperate and acute need. Additionally, approximately 6.1 million people were internally displaced, whereas 5.6 million have left their houses in order to flee the ongoing conflict, with few –if any- prospects for return. Furthermore, as a consequence of the widespread disregard for the International Humanitarian Law principles of proportionality, distinction and precaution throughout the civil war, many civilian buildings –such as schools, hospitals, markets and safe water supplies- have been severely damaged, remaining in disrepair for a protracted time. Subsequently, the civilian population has struggled to access the basic services, which they needed in order to cope with the financial hardship and the health issues brought about by the hostilities. Such a situation is well portrayed by the fact that around 90 per cent of the entire population has been estimated to live under the poverty line, with millions of people whose survival depended exclusively on the assistance provided by the humanitarian actors working in the region.

As far as children’s livelihood opportunities are concerned, 137000 children under the age of 5 suffer from acute malnutrition, leading often to morbidity and infantile mortality. Furthermore, at the time of the publication of the HNO, approximately 2.45 million minors did not have any chance to attend school, being exposed to severe risks related to child marriage, child labour and child soldiering. Indeed, since several families have experienced a dramatic loss of purchasing power determined by the devaluation of the local currency, many children are exploited for economic reasons and forced to engage in humiliating or dangerous activities, such as prostitution and fighting. Moreover, it has been estimated that around one third of schoolchildren are displaced, suffering from grave physical and psychological impairments which hinder their personal education and individual growth. Additionally, 23 per cent of the overall toll of victims of explosive violence in 2019 were people under 18. 

In line with this appalling scenario, it must be borne in mind that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) reported that 438000 Palestinian refugees live in Syrian camps. The vast majority (95 per cent) of these people have been disproportionately affected by the shortage of essential resources and the restrictions on the freedom of movement, enduring conditions of extreme powerlessness, despair and vulnerability. In the refugee camps, water and electricity supplies, schools, clinics and sewage networks need to be reconstructed or rehabilitated. Meanwhile, those people living there experience terrible health and hygiene problems, with few chances of receiving appropriate medical treatments.




Author: Gianpaolo Mascaro; Editor: Jasmina Saric

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