CSIS: Int'l community not meeting humanitarian cost of Syria amid political deadlock
by Fatih Şemsettin Işık
ISTANBULFeb 16, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Fatih Şemsettin Işık
Feb 16, 2016 12:00 am
Figures from a recent CSIS report show that both global powers and international actors are failing to ease the humanitarian cost of the Syrian civil war while Turkey continues to shoulder the cost with little support
According to a report from the Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), global powers and the international community are failing when it comes to covering the humanitarian costs of the five-year Syrian civil war or finding a political solution for Syria, as demonstrated in the deadlock seen at the most recent talks in Geneva, where the demands from opposition groups were not met.
The report, named "The Human Cost of War in the Middle East: A Graphic Overview" and written by Anthony H. Cordesman, examines the humanitarian impacts of the ongoing wars in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen. Its findings observe how Turkey shoulders a large burden of the Syrian refugee crisis and how Russia-backed regime offensives are escalating problem.
Quoting the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the report says that as of the end of 2015, 13.5 million people are in desperate need in Syria while 6.5 million are internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 4.6 million live in isolated and besieged areas.
Citing the situation in Syria as the main reason for the rising refugee problem worldwide, the report says that surrounding countries continue to be heavily impacted by the crisis, namely Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.
Support for Turkey more theoretical than real
As Syria's northern neighbor, Turkey became the place of safety for over 2 million refugees over the past five years. Home to more than 2.3 million Syrians and still facing a continuing stream of refugees from Aleppo and the Turkmen-populated Bayırbucak region due to Russia-backed regime offensives in northern Syria, Ankara continues to act in dealing with the humanitarian aspect of the crisis.
The report claims that Turkey will be assisted by EU countries and the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) in caring for refugee. It says: "On November 16, the UK announced that it plans to contribute up to $419 million in bilateral assistance to Turkey during the next two years to assist with the Syrian conflict and resultant refugee crisis. The new funding will likely target humanitarian projects; support schools, hospitals, and housing for Syrian refugees; and assist communities hosting refugees. The new UK announcement builds upon existing funding through the UK Department for International Development (DFID), which has provided approximately $52 million for humanitarian projects in Turkey since the beginning of the Syrian complex emergency."
It also says that the Turkish Red Crescent, the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) and the WFP have worked together to provide Syrian refugees with sufficient food assistance for them to cover their food requirements.
Several other figures in the report show that the level of involvement in easing the burden on Turkey and other neighboring countries is not enough and that Ankara needs much more help to meet the needs of the refugees who reside within its borders now comprising 2.9 percent of the total population, according to the report.
Considering the amount of funds Ankara has received from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) between 2011 and 2015, the report states that Turkey has enjoyed much less aid than Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon even though it has more refugees.
The report says that $212.4 million worth of allocations have been spent over four years by the CERF, which is managed by the OCHA and receives voluntary contributions year-round from United Nations member states and observers, regional governments, the private sector, foundations and individuals. Lebanon received $39.5 million, Jordan $27.2 million and Iraq $20.6 million, while Turkey received $11.1 million.
The report also says that Turkey was not funded by the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) in 2015. The plan required $4.5 billion for 4.39 million refugees in Syria's surrounding countries and 1.3 million internally displace persons (IDPs) living in need. Turkey, however, received 37 percent of the aid and was left with a $624 million shortfall.
Human cost dramatically increased after Russian entrance
As Moscow stepped up its presence in the Syrian civil war last September to bolster its staunch ally Syrian leader Bashar Assad and keep him in power, both Moscow and Assad have played a considerable role in creating the rising numbers of refugees together with committing war crimes and human rights offences, the report says.
"The Syrian Arab Republic Government (SARG) and the Government of the Russian Federation (GoRF) began coordinating airstrikes across Syria on September 30. The U.N. reports that SARG and GoRF airstrikes, in addition to ground offensives, have displaced thousands of Syrians, including approximately 80,000 people in northern Syria's Hamah and Idlib governorates in October," the report says.
It also says that nearly 131,400 people from the Aleppo, Hamah, and Idlib governorates were displaced between early October and mid-November due to Russian airstrikes and thousands of others fled fighting in the al-Hasakah, Damascus, Dara, Latakia and Rif Dimashq governorates.
The report says: "The UN reports that the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the estimated 13.5 million people in need remains extremely challenging due to ongoing conflict and deliberate access constraints and obstructions imposed by parties to the conflict, including onerous administrative processes."
Intensified targeting of civilian infrastructure in northern Syria, including health facilities since the commencement of Russian airstrikes is also noted in the report. It says: "In October, alleged SARG and GoRF airstrikes accounted for attacks on US-supported health facilities in northern and southern Syria. In addition, a recent study attributed more than 70 percent of security incidents and approximately 77 percent of civilian casualties in Syria to the SARG. The NGO Physicians for Human Rights has documented at least 90 attacks on medical facilities between January and November, marking 2015 as the year with the most recorded health facility attacks in Syria to date."
The report also records Russia's use of cluster munitions, which are internationally banned. Recording each event of cluster munitions by date, the report says: "Human Rights Watch documented that cluster munitions were used on at least 20 occasions since Syria and Russia began their joint offensive on September 30.
Human Rights Watch collected detailed information about attacks in nine locations that have killed at least 35 civilians, including five women and 17 children, and injured dozens. Two attacks hit camps for the displaced. For the other attacks, Human Rights Watch obtained visual confirmation of the cluster munition used and a second source confirmed the attack. The cluster munitions used in Syria recently that Human Rights Watch was able to confirm were manufactured in the former Soviet Union or Russia."
The Syrian regime is also accused of committing war crimes in a Dec. 11 report from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, calling for the regime to be tried at the International Criminal Court.
He said: "The deliberate targeting of civilians is a war crime and those responsible must be held accountable. I repeat my call for the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic to be referred to the International Criminal Court. I regret that, despite the declaration by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic, in its statement of 9 November, that it would refrain from using indiscriminate weapons, such incidents continued to be reported in November. I expect the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic to deliver on its commitments and translate them into firm action without delay."
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