This week’s media headlines about the Syrian crisis have focused on a walk-out by the Syrian delegation at the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran, after Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi called the regime “oppressive”; and a TV interview in which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he needed more time to win the war. But the humanitarian situation of hundreds of thousands of people in need of assistance inside Syria has been—as usual, aid workers would say—largely neglected. As violence spreads to previously unaffected areas, internal displacement has reached unprecedented levels. Three million people are in need of food assistance or agricultural support. Many more have been affected by a crumbling economy and a lack of social services, especially health care. Meanwhile, funding for humanitarian aid has not matched the strong rhetoric on Syria in the international community.
Increasingly, aid workers feel it is time to speak out. “We have kept silent for quite a while. The political debate has been predominant,” said Radhouane Nouicer, the UN’s top humanitarian official in Syria. “We need to remind people that beyond the political debate, there are also people who are suffering and who are not having their needs met.”
Nouice told the UN-affiliated news service IRIN: “People have to realize that the situation has further deteriorated in recent weeks and that the violence has spread and intensified. Areas which used to be rather safe have become part of the war zone, like Aleppo and even Damascus… We are estimating the number of internally displaced people to be 1.2 million. This comes in addition to the people who have been affected even if they have not been displaced: affected by the war… by the non-functioning public services; the unemployment; the miserable conditions that are prevailing. I would highlight particularly the [lack of] medical services, hygiene, water and sanitation, basic shelter and basic household items.”
From the Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN), Aug. 31