Crisis in Syria, the US Role and Policy

Dr. Calvello Hynes is currently teaching in the Colorado School of Public Health. She offers her students the opportunity to create blog posts to highlight current policies in global health.

This entry is by Dave Woods, MPH candidate, submitted June 23, 2019

Photo credit:https://news.sky.com/story/eight-things-to-read-to-help-understand-the-syria-crisis-10619641

The international community, with great assistance from the united states, has ended the humanitarian crisis in Syria

Unfortunately, this is not a real title. Despite the courageous, hard work of humanitarian organizations and individuals, the situation in Syria continues to worsen.

            The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) has published five “Situation Reports” this year related to military hostility (towards civilians and non-combatants) and humanitarian needs in Syria. The latest report was dated June 14, 2019; it states “Violence in northwest Syria continued over the last ten days throughout Eid al Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan. Airstrikes and shelling in southern Idleb, northern Hama and western Aleppo governorates is putting civilians at risk and impeding the delivery of assistance” (UN, 2019). The report notes that humanitarian assistance is continuing despite impediments. While hundreds of thousands of people are receiving critical assistance, violence is still driving displacement. The report also states, “A further escalation of violence, triggering waves of displacement and complicating humanitarian access and provision of humanitarian assistance risks overwhelming an already stretched response” (UN, 2019). UNOCHA has estimated 330,000 people in Syria have been forced to flee their homes; most of them traveling north toward Turkey.

            The international humanitarian community has implemented plans that anticipated large-scale escalations of conflict and population displacement in northwest Syria. In Idleb and northern Hama, healthcare, shelter, food, and potable water have been the most needed and provided items. At least fifteen different international organizations have provided emergency response services to Syrian civilians recently displaced. Other services provided include: psychological first aid, psychosocial support, dignity kit distribution, and family tracing and reunification (UNHCR, 2019). While humanitarian organizations are responding to the needs of Syrian refugees their work has not been enough.

            The United States, as a world power, has seemingly not contributed to the Syrian crisis militarily or humanitarianly. Presidential messages to the State Department in 2018 suggest Trump intended to end the US’s obligation in Syria, short of military action against ISIS in the region. All future aid for Syria, including $200 million set aside for recovery efforts, was suspended by president Trump in 2018 (Laipson, 2018). Although  speculation about why the US has not contributed to Syrian relief centers around Trump, ‘finger-pointing’ or blame will not help the situation. A call to action is the morally imperative path to pursue at this time. Despite president Trump, the US should take humanitarian action in Syria immediately. A humanitarian operations plan should be implemented in accordance with The Core Humanitarian Standards (CHS) and Sphere. Sphere, formerly The Sphere Project, was created by the Red Cross, Red Crescent, and several NGOs. The mission of Sphere is to improve the quality of humanitarian organizations’ responses to disaster and conflict. The Sphere philosophy is based on two core beliefs:

1.     People affected by disaster or conflict have the right to life with dignity and, therefore, the right to assistance 

2.     All possible steps should be taken to alleviate human suffering arising out of disaster or conflict (Sphere, 2018).

 A US Humanitarian Operations Plan for Syria, 2019 would hold these beliefs as core values and mission statements. A plan with CHS and Sphere considerations would allow the US to assist the international community in ending the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

References

Laipson, E. (2018). Making Sense of Trump at War: Ramping Up in Afghanistan, Scaling Back in Syria. World Politics Review (Selective Content), 1–4

Sphere Association. (2018). The Sphere Handbook: Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response, fourth edition, Geneva, Switzerland, 2018.    www.spherestandards.org/handbook

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. (2019). Syria: Situation Report 5: Recent Developments in Northwestern Syria. June 14, 2019. www.unocha.org 

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. (2019).  Idlib, Syria:“We are faced with a humanitarian disaster unfolding before our eyes” – says UN Humanitarian Chief. June 18, 2019.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.(2019). 2018 Syria Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan Achievements, January-December 2018.

UNHCR (2019). UNHCR Cross-Border Humanitarian Response Fact Sheet - Northwest Syria - May 2019 21 Jun 2019