2017 Humanitarian Needs Overview: Syrian Arab Republic [EN/AR]
IMPACT OF THE CRISIS
More than five years after the start of the conflict, intense hostilities persist across many parts of Syria. Parties to the conflict continue to commit violations of international humanitarian and international human rights law. Economic collapse continues to drive the immense humanitarian crisis across the country.
Conflict remains the principal cause of Syria’s humanitarian crisis. All areas of the country, north, south, east and west, are impacted by the continuing conflict, which has grown more violent over the last year, resulting in thousands of deaths and injuries, increased internal displacement, large-scale migration to Europe and beyond, lost livelihoods, mounting humanitarian needs and diminished humanitarian access to many areas. Two separate cessation of hostilities agreements, brokered by the Russian Federation and the United States, provided a temporary platform for the de-escalation of hostilities and brought about a notable reduction in violence in many parts of the country. However the eventual collapse of both agreements saw a resumption of violence, with devastating impacts on civilian populations.
Violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law
A defining feature of the conflict and humanitarian crisis in Syria has been the repeated breach of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), designed to limit the effects of armed conflict on civilians. Over the course of 2016, parties to the conflict have continued to attack densely populated areas, sometimes indiscriminately or otherwise unlawfully, targeting civilians or civilian infrastructure, such as medical facilities. From January to September 2016, there were 101 reported attacks resulting in damage to hospitals and health care centres across Syria. In the first half of 2016, the UN verified 38 attacks on education facilities and personnel. Attacks, many of which are in breach of IHL laws and customs, result in the death of humanitarian aid workers and the destruction of infrastructure. At least 66 humanitarian workers were killed and 114 wounded in the first nine months of 2016. Obstructions are placed on the ability of humanitarian actors to access people in need, resulting in unnecessary deaths.
Above and beyond the suffering arising from hostilities, civilians’ suffering is compounded by less visible human rights violations. Parties to the conflict continue to subject civilians to campaigns of harassment, arbitrary arrest, abduction, detention, torture and ill treatment. Since the beginning of the conflict, tens of thousands of Syrians are thought to have been subject to enforced disappearance. Survivors describe horrendous ordeals of torture and abuse, while relatives of victims face protracted suffering in their efforts to uncover where they are, how they are being treated and even whether they are still alive. In ISIL-held areas, civilians continue to be subjected to executions and other inhumane punishments for alleged violations of strict codes imposed by the group. Women and girls are also raped and subjected to sexual enslavement.
The drastic decline of the economy has exacerbated Syria’s humanitarian crisis. In the course of almost six years, the conflict has devastated Syria’s economy, resulting in economic losses of more than $254 billion. Conflict has damaged or destroyed Syria’s economic infrastructure, impeded access to sources of income, disrupted markets, and triggered currency depreciation. Economic losses from the disruption to the education system are estimated around $11 billion, equivalent to about 18 per cent of Syria's 2010 gross domestic product (GDP),26 further damaging long-term economic prospects.
An assortment of unilateral sanctions - some of the most far-reaching ever imposed - has severely limited trade opportunities. Complex financial and legal requirements often preclude the delivery of humanitarian assistance and can restrict humanitarian actors from importing basic equipment and material essential to maintaining life-saving services. Unilateral sanctions and export controls prohibit the importation of a range of ‘dual-use’ items. Consequently, many projects delivered by the UN, international non-governmental organisations (INGO), and their implementing partners in areas such as water supply, sanitation, agricultural production, power supply and the reconstruction of hospitals/homes rely on access to controlled dual-use goods and are likely to require specific licenses. According to UNDP, such import restrictions alone have led to a decline in the efficiency of water operations of more than 40 per cent relative to pre-crisis levels.
Food production has been drastically reduced, with the total area of land under cultivation having shrunk by 40 per cent. Compounded by difficulties in distributing food staples, a third of the population is now food insecure. Government revenues have plummeted largely due to the decrease in oil exports and the disruption of trade. As a result, the country’s GDP has contracted by 55 per cent, with a further contraction expected. A fragmented war economy based on shortterm opportunism and predatory behavior – profiteering, kidnapping, theft, illegal taxation, and diversion of assistance – has also contributed to the economy’s decline.
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