The United Nations humanitarian arm has warned that the ongoing conflict in Syria, which will soon enter its third year and it will lead to a sharp spike in the number of people needing urgent aid, including food, clean water and vital medical services.
“If the violence continues unabated, we could, in the short term, see considerably more than the current four million in need of urgent assistance and more than two million internally displaced in Syria,” the spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Jens Laerke, told a news conference in Geneva.
“Organizations are struggling to reach more people, in more places, with more aid, but lack of access is still a major obstacle,” he added.
The UN and its partners are expanding local partnerships outside of the more than 70 local groups now working on the ground in Syria to reach more needy people. OCHA has also urged the Government of Syria to allow more international non-governmental organizations, which could be potential partners, into Syria.
The fighting has also disrupted health services. The UN World Health Organization (WHO) announced today that the National Hospital had been destroyed in the last few days.
“Overall, 55 per cent of the public hospitals have been damaged and more than one-third of all hospitals are out of service,” Elizabeth Hoff, WHO Representative in Syria, told the news conference by telephone from Damascus, where she reported heavy fighting in the rural area around the capital city.
Over two-thirds of the ambulances in the country have been damaged and new ones are being used for military purposes, she added.
The Syrian conflict began on 15 March 2011 with nationwide demonstrations, as part of the wider protest movement known as the Arab Spring. Protesters demanded the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, the present personification of his family’s decades-long rule, as well as the end to nearly five decades of Ba’ath Party rule.
In April 2011, the Syrian Army was deployed to quell the uprising and soldiers were ordered to open fire on demonstrators. After months of military sieges, the protests evolved into an armed rebellion. Opposition forces, mainly composed of defected soldiers and civilian volunteers, became increasingly armed and organized as they unified into larger groups, with some groups receiving military aid from several foreign countries.
By 2 January 2013, the United Nations announced that the war’s death toll had exceeded 60,000.