Today marks the 6th anniversary of the beginning of the conflict in Syria. Dóchas’ Head of Programmes and Policy, Louise Finan, shares her thoughts on the impact of the conflict.
As the Syrian conflict hits its seventh year, the number of men, women and children affected has become no less shocking than it was this time last year. Up to half a million people have died. And out of 12 million in need of assistance inside Syria, some 3.5 million can only be reached with sporadic aid distributions, and at least 500,000 are completely cut off from help. Recent reports suggest that the mental health effects of the conflict will be felt for decades to come.
A population equivalent to our own in Ireland (4.8 million) has fled mainly to Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq—countries who despite facing enormous pressures continue to outdo richer countries in refugee hosting rates. Peace brokering initiatives have floundered and with the average war lasting anything up to twelve years, the picture for Syria looks hopeless.
But hope is what drives those Syrians who flee by land and sea to countries that can and should provide them with protection. Hope is why Syrians have not given up demanding that we stand in solidarity and action with them. Hope is why parents get up every day and support their children to get an education.
Syria is not a hopeless situation because of the Syrians we see every day doing what they can to live a normal life. We have a responsibility to support their drive and resilience. We must not turn our backs on conflicts like this because it seems all too complex and intractable.
This means keeping our aid promises no matter the political climate. This means providing food and the basic essentials when people need them. It means funding education so that children wherever they are can attend school and learn. It means allowing families the right to access decent work and healthcare. It also means protecting civilians from the most violent effects of conflict and opening our borders when we need to.
Those are not aspirational actions; they are what we, as a global community must do now.