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Syria struggles with long term impact of heavy bombing as humanitarian crisis deepens

Press Release | London, 15th March 2022, 12:00 GMT

11 years after the start of the conflict in Syria, the humanitarian crisis is only getting worse. 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 ordnance and the scale of population displacement are enormous challenges to overcome. The conflict in Syria is a clear example of the long-term humanitarian consequences of using explosive weapons in populated areas. States must support the strong international agreement against urban bombing that has its final round of negotiations in April.  

“After 11 years of war in Syria, continuous bombing and shelling in populated areas has had appalling humanitarian consequences: thousands of deaths and life-changing injuries, psychological trauma, families torn apart, forced displacement, destruction of essential infrastructure such as hospitals, schools and water supply, and ever-worsening poverty.” explains George Graham, Chief Executive of Humanity & Inclusion UK. “We are working in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt with Syrian refugees who have lost everything and depend on humanitarian assistance to survive.”  

Some facts about Syria: 

  • 14 million people inside Syria need humanitarian assistance – a 20% increase from last year.
  • 6.7 million people are displaced inside the country – many multiple times – which is the largest internally displaced population of any country in the world.   
  • 30% of the population aged 12 years and above have disabilities.   
  • 5.7 million Syrians are refugees in neighbouring countries and heavily rely on humanitarian assistance.  
  • Massive, continuous bombing and shelling has left millions of people without homes and forced them to flee. 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.  
  • The level of contamination is unprecedented in the history of mine clearance operations: it includes 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.  
  • 11.5 million people are currently living in areas contaminated by explosive remnants of war, one of the significant obstacles preventing the safe return of refugees and displaced persons in Syria. It is also a major obstacle to rebuilding Syria, its economy and social fabric. Rebuilding cities and infrastructure in Syria will require complex and expensive clearance operations. It will take generations to make Syria safe.  
  • Humanitarians are struggling to access all communities in need and face mounting security risks: in 2021, there were 42 recorded attacks on aid workers, over a third of whom were killed.   
  • Only half of hospitals and primary healthcare centres across Syria are fully functional. As health infrastructure has been destroyed by bombing, health services are unable to cope with the additional Covid health crisis.  

Historic political declaration to stop the bombing of civilians  

The last round of talks for governments to agree a political declaration against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas will take place on 6-8th April 2022. The declaration will then be opened for signature by states.

Humanity & Inclusion has been part of this process and has been campaigning since 2019 to help implement this historical International political declaration. More than 250,000 people in the UK have signed Humanity & Inclusion’s petition to Stop Bombing Civilians but the United Kingdom (among other states) have strongly opposed any meaningful limitations on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, even arguing that they do not want to ‘stigmatise’ this type of weaponry.    

“After 11 years, the humanitarian crisis in Syria is only getting worse. The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance increased by 20% compared to last year. One of the major reasons for this disaster is the massive and systematic bombing and shelling in urban areas. We are a few months away from an historic international agreement against bombing in populated areas, as the current diplomatic process reaches its conclusion. States must recognise the indiscriminate and extremely long-lasting human suffering caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. They must support a strong international agreement to address the harm caused by this practice." says George Graham. 


Notes

- Interview available upon request with George Graham, Executive Director Humanity & Inclusion UK. George is media trained and fluent in English 

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