The Islamic State has quickly become the most ruthless extremist organization in the Middle East. We read about the ease at which ISIS recruits fighters. But for some it is a means to survival. Donor fatigue throughout the world community has taken its toll on Syrian...
The first report of a chemical weapon attack by the Syrian Arab Republic Government (SARG) was in December 2012. Since then, the SARG has exposed thousands of innocent civilians to deadly gases such as sarin and chlorine. These toxic chemicals can burn the lungs, cause...
Pundits, senators, and even the President of the United States have all called for the need to counter violent extremism, a vague concept if ever there was one. So how does one counter an ideology? Many academics discuss the power of state narratives. Examples of state narratives as ideology can include positing Communism as the ideal good or the ultimate evil, democracy as the ultimate representation of freedom, and the Qur’an as the ideal moral guide for ordering government. Regarding violent narratives, such as those espoused by ISIS, there there is a simulation of unyielding and uncompromisable [im]morals attached to guns and swords. Countering violent ideologies through state-led narratives is an ultimately limited strategy for the United States, at least in the Middle East, because of our status as a Western state; meaning that the United States will always be viewed as propagating a foreign ideology and Western interests. What other avenues does the United States have?
News reports state over 44 people were killed by ISIS fighters in the Syrian Government held village of Mabouja, Hama Province before the Syrian Army was able to push them back using multiple airstrikes. The different sects have long co-existed in the village of Mabouja with a sizable population of minority Ismailis, Alawites, and Sunnis. Diverse areas such as the Salamiyeh region of Hama Province are highly vulnerable to attacks by religious extremists, such as ISIS, who view both minority religious groups and Sunnis who do not adhere to ISIS’s standards of interpretation of Islamic Law as heretics, non-believers or apostates. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights stated 37 of the casualties were civilians at the time of the report.
Quick Statistics on Syria’s humanitarian crisis:
– 12.2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance
– 5.5 million children affected by the crisis
– 7.6 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)
– 4 million refugees in neighboring countries
The Refugee Crisis
The refugee crisis in Syria is one of the biggest humanitarian challenges of our time. There are currently nearly 4 million Syrians registered as refugees, and that number is only growing. On top of that, the growing refugee and IDP population are receiving even less aid than before.
Treacherous Winter Conditions
People in and around Syria have suffered through terrible humanitarian conditions from the war to begin with, but the situation was exacerbated this winter as the area bared the bitter cold and winter storms. On top of the brutal weather, many people lack the shelter and clothing necessary to keep healthy in such conditions, and fell ill or even died from the treacherous weather.
Lack of Food Aid
Due to funding shortages and government bureaucracy blocking aid agencies from distributing food aid, millions of displaced Syrians are going hungry. This winter, the U.N. had to cut the calorie count for displaced Syrians to just 825 calories per day. Keep in mind that with fewer than 1,200 calories a day, the body is sent into starvation mode inducing side effects such as weakness, fatigue, dizziness, and constipation.
Additionally, the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) recently had to reduce the number of Syrian refugees it can assist through its electronic voucher system in Turkey because of a lack of donations. The number has been reduced from 220,000 refugees in 20 camps to 154,000 in 9 camps.
The WFP is projecting a funding shortage of $71 million in donations for all of 2015.
Lack of Medical Attention
Yet another huge problem in Syria right now is the rapid spread of diseases and the lack of medical resources to treat those who are affected. People are dying from diseases like Cholera, Typhoid, Scabies, and Tuberculosis because there are no treatments or vaccines available.
As conditions worsen, there are fewer medical professionals to take care of the sick and wounded. More than 600 medical workers have been killed throughout the four-year conflict, most of them by government forces. A group of Syrian doctors came out and said Western states are focusing too much on fighting ISIS, and not enough on helping ordinary Syrians suffering through terrible humanitarian and medical situations (Reuters, 2015).
New Year, New Hope?
March 15, 2015 marked the end of the fourth year of the conflict in Syria. The new year brings an opportunity for the international community to reassess its response plan, and to create an aid environment that allows for positive, lasting change in Syria.
Here is a list of some of the new initiatives under way:
–The Syria Strategic Response Plan 2015: The UN is seeking US$8.4 billion to help Syrians gain access to main humanitarian needs, such as food, medicine, shelter and more.
–The Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan: This plan brings together emergency humanitarian operations and aims to create longer-term programs to boost the resilience of vulnerable people and impacted communities. It requires US$5.5 billion in funding to support an estimated 6 million people.
-UN Refugee Agency has released a global appeal to resettle 100,000 refugees worldwide.
-Turkey has begun building a new and upgraded refugee camp to accommodate tens of thousands of Syrians who have escaped the embattled town of Kobani. The camp will offer educational institutions and medical facilities.
-Human Rights Watch has expressed beliefs that the UN Security Council needs to have more of a roll in the conflict, saying actions “could include referring Syria to the ICC and imposing an arms embargo on groups, including the government, committing systematic and widespread human rights violations.”
Donor fatigue is becoming a serious problem as the conflict in Syria drags on. The world cannot dismiss this humanitarian crisis and give up on the Syrian people. These initiatives highlight some of the many actions underway which could bring light to a very grim situation; it is up to the international community to follow through with such plans and help Syria and the Middle East obtain peace.