September 4, 2012

Insomnia's Notes to Self: #2 Syria - a Humanitarian Crisis

One of the good thing about listening to the radio like I do, is that one can catch news that are hardly covered by the mainstream press or covered much later, or not covered at all for political reasons.

I heard in a news bulletin, that Antonio Gutterez of United Nations Commission for Refugees, spoke of a humanitarian crisis and tragedy taking place in Syria. He said that the number of killed according to him was higher than the 26'000 people as reported by the Syrian Human Rights activists.  He furthered added that that the residents of Homs and Aleppo were suffering severe shortages, and that he had never seen as many wounded being admitted in the only two functional hospitals in these respective cities.

He also spoke of a clear "civil war" where both parties were totally unequal in armed power, referring to the Syrian forces using air power plus sophisticated weapons in comparison to the opposition who had only light artillery. And I did catch the total number of Syrian government  forced killed to date to be around 1'300, while the rest are almost all civilians. He also spoke of an indescribable violence.

Needless to say none of that can be found on the net, since I searched for it. However I did stumble on his address to the UN council which can be read here. 

From the full statement, it is implied that not only the ordinary Syrians are forced to flee but that other refugees now present in Syria in particular Palestinians are also being forced to leave. You need to read the whole statement carefully to understand the language of "diplomacy".

He also mentions a number of Syrians seeking refuge, drowning in the Mediterranean sea including children earlier this week. A piece of news that was not covered by the mainstream media.

As a matter of fact the refugee crisis and tragedy is not being covered sufficiently in the media for obvious political reasons. The total number of Syrian refugees to day (since the start of crackdown and butchery by the Assad Regime) is around 229'000, and rapidly rising. A total of 3'000 per day cross into neighboring countries. To give you one example, in the past 24hrs over 200 Syrians fled to Lebanon.

Antonio Gutterez also spoke of a dramatic increase in orphans and widows in Syria.

The head of the ICRC on the other hand mentions 1.2 million Internally Displaced Persons in Syria (IDP), full article here  with very difficult living conditions and an impending fear of being killed any minute. Those who flee inside the country try to find refuge in Damascus.

UNICEF on the other hand mentions for THIS week's death toll in Syria at 1'600, adding that "it was one of the biggest humanitarian emergencies in the last decade" - on which I will have to disagree, Iraq was much worse...I just hope Syria will not reach the same levels of sectarian cleansing we witnessed in Iraq. During 2006-2007, on some days the death toll would reach 3'000 killed per day. I pray that Syria will not spiral down to this kind of level of violence.

Needless to add that there is a severe shortage of funds to host the Syrian refugees and only 50% of the pledged contributions have been received -- again one does not need to be a genius to understand why refugee aid has been trickling so slowly seeing the gravity of the problem.

A few testimonies 

"We saw people sitting on the street and sleeping. They don't have a toilet. It's very bad ... No food. Children in the street," says one person.--Turkey

"Men, women and children stood in the street in front of one school with their bags and suitcases, some unsure where to go. (after Ministry of Education decided to vacate one school) -- Lebanon

While another refugee said "Animals are treated with better living conditions"  -- Iraq

And some are stranded in the middle of the desert in very harsh conditions with next to zero sanitation, like the Zaatari camp -- Jordan.