LONDON: Ten years since the start of the Syria conflict, a coalition of international aid organizations has warned of the “suffering and increased, irreversible, damage” if growing humanitarian needs are not met.
A joint statement issued to Arab News called on world powers to use “all their influence to stop the crisis.”
“A decade since the outset of the conflict, living conditions for many Syrians are worse than ever,” the coalition of 35 aid agencies, including Save the Children, MercyCorps, and the Norwegian Refugee Council, said.
“There continues to be violence and indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure.”
More than 80 percent of people in Syria are living in poverty and food insecurity levels are at a record high. More than 12.4 million people are food insecure and a further 1.8 million are at risk.
A further 12.2 million Syrians lack regular access to clean water and 2.4 million children are currently out of school.
“The protracted displacement crisis as a result of the Syrian conflict is the worst since the Second World War,” the statement said.
The rare joint appeal “should be a stark warning to the world,” Charles Lawley, head of communications and advocacy at Syria Relief, one of the statement’s signatories, told Arab News.
“If next week’s commemorations of 10 years since the start of the Syrian crisis is just a history lesson, then there is no point in even mentioning it. Our organizations are joining together because we want this grim milestone to highlight the present and growing needs here in Syria and the neighboring countries and what action needs to be taken to meet them.
“We also call on governments with influence over the warring parties to use their pressure to seek an end to this brutal conflict and spare millions more Syrians from the violence.”
The appeal comes at a time of intense scrutiny over the future of the UK’s role in resolving the Syria war.
Earlier this month, leaked information from the British Home Office revealed that the government is planning to cut its aid budget to Syria by as much as 67 percent.
Anna McMorrin, shadow minister for international development in the UK’s opposition Labour party, told Arab News: “This is a time for leadership not retreat. Any attempt by the UK Government to cut vital lifesaving aid would further signal Britain’s shameful retreat from the world stage at a time when we need the international community to act together.”
She said the UK government should redouble efforts to end hostilities and help the millions still caught up in the conflict, “particularly in the northeast and northwest where the regime and rogue forces act with impunity.”
The war in Syria started in 2011 when President Bashar Al-Assad launched a brutal crackdown on protests against his rule.
The clashes escalated into all out conflict between Assad’s forces and rebel groups ranging from the Free Syrian Army to extremist factions linked to Al-Qaeda.
Assad, who was already backed by Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah, gained the upper hand in the war after Russia stepped up its military involvement in his support in 2015.
The war has killed nearly half a million people and displaced half the country’s population.