The Irish Times view on Syria’s war: a call that must be heard

Eighty per cent of Syrians are now estimated to live below the poverty line in a society whose health, water and sewage systems have been largely destroyed

A woman, carrying bread on her head, crosses a main road in Syria’s northeastern city of Qamishli on Tuesday. Photograph: Delil Souleiman / AFP via Getty Images

A woman, carrying bread on her head, crosses a main road in Syria’s northeastern city of Qamishli on Tuesday. Photograph: Delil Souleiman / AFP via Getty Images

 

In Syria, 10 years ago this month, the early shoots heralding a regional democratic awakening, the Arab Spring, were fast uprooted. The arrests and torture of a few young men in Daraa for spraypainting walls with the words “Your turn doctor” about dictator Bashar al-Assad lit the spark of counterdemonstrations across the country. But spring turned fast into a long, dark winter of war in which to date 600,000 have died and some 12 million have been displaced, some repeatedly, from their homes.

Thirteen million Syrians are in dire need of humanitarian aid, 9.3 million dependent on food assistance, living in crowded camps or cramped and dangerous urban homes, both inside the country and in the wider region. Eighty per cent of Syrians are now estimated to live below the poverty line in a society whose health, water and sewage systems have been largely destroyed. A Syrian child’s overall life expectancy has been reduced by 13 years while enrolment in primary and secondary school has fallen by more than a quarter.

The cumulative economic cost of conflict in Syria after 10 years is estimated by one agency to be over €1 trillion

The toll on mental health has also been devastating. One NGO, Syria Relief, reported recently in a study that 99 per cent of the internally displaced in the war-torn northwestern province Idlib are showing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. The same is true of three quarters of Syrian refugees in Lebanese and Turkish camps.

The cumulative economic cost of conflict in Syria after 10 years is estimated by one agency to be over €1 trillion, almost equal to the entire EU budget over that decade. Yet humanitarian aid to the country in that period amounted only to €16 billion, just 1.6 per cent of the total economic cost.

The appeal for continued urgent support for Syrian aid which was made yesterday by NGOs to the Oireachtas committee on foreign affairs should be strongly supported. They have also drawn attention to the welcome work by Ireland on the UN Security Council in safeguarding the only remaining UN access point for humanitarian aid from neighbouring Turkey into northwest Syria, a vital lifeline for over four million people.

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