The Syrian conflict has quickly become a nightmare for the international community, especially within the realm of human rights. Since the unrest began more than two years ago, it has been reported that between 60,000 and 80,000 Syrians have died as a result of the conflict. However, experts have estimated that those numbers are much closer to 120,000 dead, as both the Syrian regime and rebellion have been minimizing the death reports to keep morale high.
In addition to the vague numbers of dead, Syria is dealing with a very serious refugee crisis. It has been reported by the United Nations that the number of Syrian refugees fleeing to neighboring countries will likely reach three million people by the end of the year. As of right now, according to the UN high commissioner for refugees, 1.5 million Syrians have already fled the conflict into neighboring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. Additionally, more than four million Syrians have been internally displaced since the beginning of the unrest.
The abuses that the Syrian civilians have had to endure cover a wide range. Most recently there have been reports of chemical weapons being used on select towns. Moreover, Human Rights Watch has reported that two Syrian security centers captured by rebel fighters contain proof of torture rooms and enforced detainment of civilians.
Now that a brief, unsettling picture has been painted of what is happening to Syrian civilians, what is the international community doing to help? The focus of humanitarian aid has so far been on life-saving activities such as treating and evacuating the wounded, as well as shelter and food assistance.
So far the European Union has been the largest donor in humanitarian aid for Syria, sending over 626 million euros. The United States has also generously added to that aid with USAID providing food aid, medical supplies, emergency and basic health care, clean water, hygiene education, and supplies, plus five million dollars to the Syrian Humanitarian Response.
However, it has proven difficult to effectively help the Syrian people. Humanitarian work space is shrinking and access is precarious at best. The international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) providing the aid are severely constrained by security issues, as on humanitarian workers have left 18 SARC volunteers and 9 UN staff members dead. Additionally, the INGOs are limited in what they can provide due to cumbersome administrative laws and operational restrictions. This is clearly seen by the too few INGOs who can formally operate within Syria. As a result, the Syrian civilians are suffering from this conflict and will continue to do so until something drastic is done.