The earthquake in Syria on February 6 came to add to a list of tragedies for the population. Syria is experiencing a deep humanitarian crisis caused by almost 12 years of civil war. The critical situation has multiple problems to solve. We analyze the context .
LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos
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Leer en español: Terremoto en Siria: la tragedia que no termina
Hunger, weak institutions and infrastructures in poor condition due to the war make up the scenario in which the earthquake of February 6 arrived in Syria. This earthquake, which had southern Turkey as its epicenter, has left a devastating scenario for both countries. At the close of this edition, more than 11,000 people have been reported dead (8,574 in Turkey and 2,500 in Syria), more than 53,000 injured and hundreds of people still under rubble.
Humanitarian assistance has been deployed in Turkey and Syria by different international organizations, states and NGOs. However, in Syria this activity is proving to be even more complicated than rescue and emergency assistance work already is. The affected area, in the north of the country, is one of the hardest hit by the war, so many buildings were already in poor condition due to the bombing. At the same time, many of the refugees live there in precarious conditions and the territory is divided on one side under the control of the Syrian government and on the other by the rebels of the Syrian Democratic Forces SDF.
Rains, it Pours
The economic, political and social context of Syria is very complex, since the civilian population has suffered innumerable tragedies for more than a decade. This is largely due to the multiplicity of armed actors. This government is under the Alawite regime of Bashar al Assad. In opposition to this, the coalition of SDF rebels are led by Kurdish groups. On the other hand, in opposition to both actors, are the Jihadist terrorist groups, especially Daesh (Islamic State).
According to Amnesty International , all parties have committed "with impunity serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes, crimes against humanity and other flagrant human rights abuses". In addition, it is a conflict in which international actors have also intervened, since Syria is a key point in world geopolitics due to its strategic position and its natural gas and oil reserves.
Thus, the al Assad regime is supported by Russia, China and Iran. The SDF by an international coalition, led by the United States, the latter has a special interest in attacking terrorism in this area. Under this argument, they have financed the work of the SDF, but they have also sent money for the reconstruction of cities and humanitarian assistance in the territories that have been recovered from the hands of terrorism. In contrast, it has also made multiple blockades and sanctions on the Syrian government, as reported by the official website of the United States government.
These conflicting interests in Syrian territory have made the arrival of humanitarian assistance and international aid very difficult, as denounced by Amnesty International and other organizations. The truth is that human suffering and attacks on the civilian population have not ceased since the start of the war and are immeasurable. Above all, with a criminal and authoritarian regime with few options for change. In addition, it is necessary to highlight the cultural and patrimonial loss of one of the cradles of humanity.
Hunger at Highest Levels in 12 Years
Syrian families are facing the highest levels of food insecurity since the war began. The World Food Program WFP estimates that there are 12.1 million people in Syria suffering from food insecurity, 2.5 million in a severe state. This data mentions almost half of the population and more than double compared to the figures for 2019. In other words, both the pandemic and the war in Ukraine have had a very strong impact on this country.
"2.9 million people are in danger of going hungry, which means that soon 70% of the population will not have food for their families" the UN said on its news portal a couple of weeks ago. Added to this are the adverse weather conditions that have arisen over the winter. In fact, the earthquake has come at a time of intense cold, with snowfalls that have complicated rescue efforts, and made those trapped in the rubble more vulnerable.
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And the Refugees?
It is estimated that there are around 6.7 million internally displaced persons and 6.6 million refugees who have fled to other countries, especially neighboring countries such as Lebanon or Turkey, according to UNHCR information.
In 2015 there were many migratory movements of Syrians who sought to leave their country to flee the war. The massive arrival of refugees and emigrants to Europe in that year sparked many political debates, to the point that it is known as the year of the migration crisis. With the current situation in Syria, many experts point out that it is most likely that another large migratory movement of similar magnitude will be generated. However, the question is whether Europe is prepared to assist refugees.
After the war in Ukraine, the continent has deployed a lot of aid to this country and their nationals. Will governments be willing to adopt the same procedures to help the Syrian people? The evidence shows that the treatment was different in 2015 and the member states of the European Union did not make their commitments. On the other hand, in several countries there are governments with anti-migrant policies, countries like Italy, Poland or Hungary have hate speech, especially against Muslims.
In addition to this, the United Nations had already announced this year that 65 million more people than in 2022 would require humanitarian aid and that there were not enough resources to help them. However, the profits of companies such as banks and oil companies continue to be enormous and the investment in war enormous. Thus, greater political will is required to provide solutions to the civilian population. Likewise, most humanitarian organizations have open donation channels to assist the emergency.