As the death toll has climbed to an estimated 100,000 and recent reports indicate that someone, most likely soldiers serving Bashar al-Assad's regime, has deployed the nerve agent sarin against civilians, Western powers have scrambled to find a way to address the mounting humanitarian crisis in Syria. The international community recently deployed a team of UN chemical weapons experts to the country to evaluate the situation.
But, with the crisis at hand crossing President Obama's "red line," policy experts remain hotly divided over the potential for intervention to help end the suffering. Some military experts including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey have warned that intervention could fuel even more violence both inside of Syria and across the region. Others, such as John McCain, are fervently in support of military action, and argue that the U.S. cannot stand on the sidelines as the death toll rises. Either way, the international community should not turn a blind eye on the humanitarian crises the Syrian people are facing. As the figures of violence and destruction become mind-numbing, it is important not to become desensitized to the human suffering that is taking place. Here are some scenes depicting just how dire the situation has become.
UNICEF estimates that there are 3,128,000 children impoverished and displaced within Syria, and 1,000,000 Syrian child refugees living in squalor across Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, Egypt, and other countries. The organization has dedicated a website to tracking the stories of these children to help draw attention to the funding gap in adequate housing, health, and education costs necessary to address the growing humanitarian crisis.
This video, re-posted from YouTube by the Washington Post, claims this girl is a victim who lost both her parents in an attack near Damascus. She screams as she is tended to by a hospital worker. It is unclear whether her behavior is the result of chemical exposure or simple terror. She only screams for her parents, and says over and over, "I'm alive, I'm alive."
Human Rights Watch issued this report on August 21 in which wwitnesses in Eastern and Western Ghouta, outside Damascus, described experiences of an alleged chemical attack that killed at least a hundred Syrians, including women and children. "There was a big cloud of smoke covering the area," one witness from Ayn Tarma told Human Rights Watch. "Most of us had masks to cover our mouth but they didn't protect our eyes. Everybody was coughing and some were suffocating."
The Associated Press released these heartbreaking images from the suburbs of Damascus on August 26, 2013 following chemical weapon attacks observers believe to be sarin gas. UN weapons inspectors entered Syria on August 18 to investigate these attacks, and are set to leave the country on Saturday (a day earlier than expected) to issue a final report on their findings.
This image taken through Aleppo Medical Center and provided by the Associated Press depicts the significant destruction of buildings and infrastructure across Syria's major cities, including Aleppo, where rubble litters the now empty city streets. Aleppo was once a thriving hub and Syria's largest cities, and Obama administration officials have stated that they fear the city is a likely target for a chemical attack.
This September 20 image from the AP depicts a "wounded woman" leaving Dar El Shifa Hospital in Aleppo. This site was allegedly held as a medical facility by rebels, and was later bombed and flattened by the Syrian Army. Available video footage of the hospital bombing was posted here.
In this video released by Vice, a young Syrian boy recounts how he helps an Aleppo hospital tend to patients by cleaning floors, organizing medical items, and sometimes even helping in surgery. He says many doctors went to Turkey and never returned, and the hospitals are in great need of staff.
"Since it's been a while, I've gotten used to seeing blood like it's water," he tells interviewers. Syrian hospitals like this one have reportedly treated thousands of poison gas victims in recent weeks, and are in desperate need of space, medical personnel, and supplies to address the mounting crisis.