10 years of conflict: "It will take at least two generations to rebuild Syria"
Press Release | London, 5th March 2021, 9:00 GMT
Press Release | London, 5th March 2021, 9:00 GMT
15th March 2021 marks 10 years since the start of the conflict in Syria and the humanitarian crisis is only getting worse. Humanity & Inclusion (HI) is working in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt with Syrians who have lost everything and need humanitarian aid to survive. Humanitarian needs are immense while access to people in need remains a major challenge. Even when the conflict ends, rebuilding Syria will take generations. The level of destruction of infrastructure, contamination by explosive devices - a level unprecedented in the history of mine clearance - and the scale of population displacement are enormous challenges to overcome.
A decade of conflict and Syria is in a severe state of humanitarian crisis. This is made worse as there are three crises happening at the same time; the ongoing conflict, an acute economic crisis and now the COVID-19 pandemic. Humanitarian workers struggle to access all communities in need and face mounting security risks. In 2020, there were 65 recorded attacks on aid workers; nearly half of those attacked were killed. It is estimated that there have been at least 100,000 COVID-19 cases in Government of Syria-controlled territory alone.
At least a third of homes in Syria are damaged or destroyed. Major cities like Raqqa, Aleppo and Homs have been largely destroyed by extensive and intense use of explosive weapons. 80% of the city of Raqqa was destroyed in 2017. Massive, continuous bombing and shelling has left millions of people without homes and forced them to flee.
As health infrastructure has been destroyed by bombing, services are unable to cope with the extra pressures of COVID-19. Only half of hospitals and primary healthcare centres across Syria are fully functional. Even before the pandemic, more Syrians are estimated to have died from the breakdown of the health system than directly from the fighting.
The level of contamination in Syria is unprecedented in the history of mine clearance. The contamination from unexploded ordnance (UXO), i.e. bombs, rockets and mortars that did not explode on impact, and other explosive hazards such as landmines and booby traps, is so severe that it will take generations to make Syria safe. Contamination with explosive remnants of war is one of the significant obstacles preventing the safe return of refugees and displaced persons in Syria. This contamination will also be a major obstacle in rebuilding Syria; its economy and social fabric. Rebuilding cities and infrastructure in Syria will require complex and expensive clearance operations.
What makes contamination in Syria different?
1. The first reason is the very wide range of weapons used.
“After a decade of conflict, Syrian soil is contaminated by a complete spectrum of explosive weapons including unexploded bombs, explosive remnants and booby traps, and improvised mines,” says Emmanuel Savage, Director of Armed Violence Reduction at HI.
2. The second is the fact that urban and peri-urban areas are the worst affected.
In 2015, Salam was injured by a cluster munition; an object which she thought was a toy in the ground. Children, like Salam, are particularly at risk of the consequences of explosive weapons. Children have thinner skin, more flexible bones and greater heat and fluid sensitivity. They are less likely to survive blast injuries, and when they do, their injuries are frequently for life. HI worked with Salam to provide rehabilitation and psychosocial support following her injury.
Humanity & Inclusion’s experts available for interviews:
Statistics from Humanity & Inclusion:
Humanity & Inclusion’s reports on the impact of explosive weapons:
These reports are being used to inform the ongoing international negotiations between states towards a political declaration to avoid the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
Lucy Cottle, Humanity & Inclusion UK
Mobile: +44 (0)7504989280
Humanity & Inclusion is an independent international aid organization. It has been working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict, and disaster for 39 years. Working alongside people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, our action and testimony are focused on responding to their essential needs, improving their living conditions, and promoting respect for their dignity and basic rights. Since it was founded in 1982, Humanity & Inclusion has set up development programs in more than 60 countries and intervenes in numerous emergency situations. The network of eight national associations (Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States) works constantly to mobilize resources, jointly manage projects, and to increase the impact of the organization’s principles and actions. Humanity & Inclusion is one of six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 and the winner of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 2011. Humanity & Inclusion acts and campaigns in places where “living in dignity” is no easy task