By Ellie Matthews, Red Cross
Thousands of people are getting caught up in the violence and unrest in Syria, most of them entirely against their will. This has obvious, immediate consequences – in that many people are being injured or killed.
As the conflict continues however, it is impacting on ordinary civilians in more subtle ways. These indirect consequences are affecting hundreds of thousands of people and will continue to do so long after the laying down of arms.
One of the most measurable ways that violence is affecting Syrians is through displacement. Some people are fleeing because their homes have actually been destroyed, but many more are simply trying to escape the violence engulfing their cities and neighbourhoods.
1.2 million people displaced
The UN estimates that over 1.2 million people are now displaced internally within Syria. That’s more displaced people than if every resident of Dublin City– walked out of their home tomorrow and didn’t go back.
Clearly, the knock-on consequences of such large-scale population movement are devastating. Basic necessities like water, sanitation, shelter and food all become huge challenges. Many Syrians have taken refuge in public buildings such as schools, but their lives have been totally disrupted.
People who flee their homes often leave with little, and are increasingly vulnerable as the conflict continues. Many families have re-settled in poorer or rural neighbourhoods, where employment opportunities are scarce and health facilities overstretched. With violence shifting and spreading to new areas, some families have to move more than once.
In addition to displacement within Syria, many people have fled to neighbouring countries. While over 170,000 Syrians – equivalent to more than the entire population of County Limerick – have registered as refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq, the total number of migrants is likely to be much higher. This continued influx is increasing the burden on host communities and putting pressure on household resources.
Breakdown of infrastructure
The situation faced by people who stay in their homes is not necessarily any better. Local resources are stretched and the whole infrastructure of many communities is slowly eroding. Neighbourhoods affected by violence often have limited access to food, water, health care and other essentials.
Road access is increasingly difficult and communications are sometimes cut. Restrictions on movement caused by the conflict have seriously affected availability of basic items on markets. Shops have been closing down, prices rising, and the supply chain is being disrupted.
Farmers are faced with obstructions because of the fighting, soaring prices for farming supplies, and shortages of fuel. Displacement means that some farmers may not be able to work at all. This, combined with below-average rainfall in north-eastern and central parts of the country, has led to dire food insecurity.
As fighting continues, it will be ordinary Syrians who bear the brunt of all these problems. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement continues to work in Syria, helping people who have been affected by violence or displaced. It is also supporting displaced Syrians in neighbouring countries.
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