Humanitarian Crisis In Eastern Ghouta

Following the UN Security Council’s unanimous decision on February 24th to implement a 30-day ceasefire in Syria, so as to bring in much needed humanitarian aid, air strikes have continued to plague rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, killing 600 civilians and forcing many to flee.

The 30-day ceasefire comes in the form of Resolution 2401, which demands all parties involved in the Syrian conflict to immediately end hostilities to enable humanitarian aid deliveries, and for there to be access to medical evacuations. The UN Meetings Coverage states the delivery of these forms of aid are greatly needed by 5.6 million people across 1,244 communities that are in severe need, in addition to 2.9 million people in remote and besieged locations. Despite this, a UN aid convoy was not able to enter Eastern Ghouta this Sunday, reports the BBC. With more than 600 dead in Eastern Ghouta since 18 February, many of whom are children, the conflict does not seem to be easing. Russia, Syria’s biggest supporter, has ordered a daily five-hour truce on 27 February, which along with the nationwide 30-day ceasefire ordered by the Security Council, has been ignored.

The UN has criticized the tactics used by Assad’s regime by saying “collective punishment of civilians is simply unacceptable,” as it is designated a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention. This conflict has become a proxy war with many parties pushing their own agendas. America, Russia, Iran and Gulf Arab states each assert their power and influence in the region, at the expense of the Syrian people. The complex layers of this war have led to continued conflict, with the United States fighting ISIS, Russia and Iran supporting Assad’s regime, and the Gulf Arab states opposing Iran’s influence by providing support for the rebel forces.

The United Nations have stated that Syrian officials have not granted permission to 40 trucks carrying humanitarian aid to reach the town of Douma. The UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator Panos Moumtzis says, “Instead of a much-needed reprieve, we continue to see more fighting, more death, and more disturbing reports of hunger and hospitals being bombed.”

Rebels have controlled Eastern Ghouta since 2013, after which President Assad’s forces backed by the Russians implemented a siege to try and push out rebel fighters. Attacks on the area have been some of the most brutal in the seven-year conflict, with the devastation being seen from space, exacerbating the dire humanitarian conditions of the nearly 400,000 people who call it home. Recently increased pressure from the Syrian government in this area has further destabilized the region and left its residents trapped.

On 26 February, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke out against the disregard for the UN’s 30-day ceasefire, calling for the resolution to be implemented effectively, describing the conditions in Eastern Ghouta to be “hell on Earth.”

The Syrian conflict, although having evolved due to different parties’ involvement, shows no sign of letting up. Assad’s government, having committed war crimes against its population, along with the disregard for Russian-backed or UN implemented ceasefires to introduce much needed humanitarian aid, needs to be held to account. The Syrian people are in critical condition and deserve peace after seven years of ongoing conflict.