Unlike neighboring Lebanon, although the war in Gaza affects Syria only marginally, it has a clear negative impact here as well. It brings more conflicts to the country, which has been plagued by civil war for the 13th year. And above all, it limits the possibilities of humanitarian aid, which, according to the UN, is needed by two thirds of the population in Syria. Half of Syrians fled their homeland during the war, or became refugees in their own country.
Those who remained now faced a bleak outlook. Last week, the UN World Food Program (WFP) announced further significant cuts in aid to Syria.
“I heard the same thing from many people in Syria. We feel like a world of abandonment,” Petr Štefan from People in Need, who recently returned from a short visit to the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo, told Seznam Zprávám.
WFP has already reduced its support in Syria and neighboring countries hosting millions of Syrian refugees in recent years. The UN cites shrinking aid budgets and donor fatigue as reasons. In its latest report, the WFP said millions of people will be affected and that food insecurity is “worse than ever”.
WFP currently helps 3.2 million Syrians, but from January it will maintain only smaller aid programs, a school feeding program and initiatives to restore Syrian irrigation systems and bakeries.
Syria after the earthquake
Read how the Syrian regime was able to take advantage of the natural disaster:
According to the AP agency, the coronavirus pandemic, the war in Ukraine and now the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip have affected donor fatigue. Help is still needed due to the devastating earthquake in February, from which the area has still not recovered.
We will reduce the activities and the number of people we help
People in Need, which has been helping in the north of Syria for a long time, faces a similar situation. “One institutional funder told us that we have to cut the budget for Syria by 60 percent for next year. We therefore have to cut down our activities in this project, we will narrow them down to humanitarian aid only, we will no longer be able to invest in activities aimed at restoring the country. We will also reduce the number of people we can help, and there is a threat of a reduction in aid to individual people,” said non-profit worker Petr Štefan.
“The situation there is unbelievable. You stand on a hill and as far as the eye can see one large refugee camp,” he describes the conditions in Idlib, which used to be a peaceful agricultural area before the war.
But now it is the epicenter of the humanitarian crisis in Syria. 2.9 million people have just fled here from other areas in Syria, two million of whom are still surviving in refugee camps. While in some places tent camps have already started to turn into container towns or even brick houses are growing there, some people still live in tents.
People in Need supplies food vouchers to those most in need. “A typical family is a widow with five children, she has no chance of finding a job. Unemployment is somewhere up to 90 percent,” Štefan explains.
But now the value of the vouchers will decrease. If earlier thanks to this help people had something left over from their own savings, they could still buy, for example, diesel or heating fuel, now it probably won’t work anymore.
Interview from Syria
“The situation is very bad, there is a lack of rescue machines, water, blankets,” Mohamad Kazmooz, a photographer and volunteer helping rescuers after the earthquake, describes the desperate situation in Syria for Nauzal.
The humanitarian crisis in the last three months has also been greatly aggravated by the escalation of violence that has occurred since October 5. The attack on the military academy in Idlib was followed by a heavy bombardment of the rebel areas, in which, in addition to the army of the dictator Bashar Assad, his Russian allies also participated.
The attacks do not avoid purely civilian targets either – according to the UN, 40 hospitals and medical facilities, as well as 27 schools, were targeted, among others. 120 thousand people had to flee to other places in the country before the attacks.
Bombing also has a strong negative effect on education, in Idlib alone there are two million children who are required to go to school, but about a million of them do not attend school. As the violence escalates, even those children who used to go stop going because it is too dangerous.
Competitors to the conflict in Gaza
The situation in northern Syria is also affected by the war in Gaza. Although the Syrian border with Israel, unlike the Lebanese border, remains relatively calm, there are still occasional raids when Israel targets Hezbollah weapons convoys. However, international airports were also targeted, which also complicates the work of humanitarian organizations.
How to help in Syria
Before Christmas, if you were thinking about how to help people in Syria, it is possible, for example, through the People in Need SOS Syria and Iraq collection or by using a donation certificate at the Real Gift e-shop.
“However, the most significant escalation related to the war in Gaza in Syria is not with Israel or Hamas, but with Iraq. “Since October 17, a new group calling itself the ‘Islamic Resistance in Iraq’ has been firing on US military bases in eastern Syria,” reported Aron Lund, a Swedish researcher mapping events in the Middle East. The aforementioned group is a front for several Iranian-backed Shiite militias.
The conflict in Gaza is also a problem because many donors may redirect their aid from Syria to the destroyed Gaza Strip. It is also not certain that the government in Damascus will keep open the two crossings in the north of the country for the arrival of aid. On November 11, the UN received a three-month permit, but Bashar al-Assad’s regime considers the opposition provinces nests of terrorists and insists that the permits will be time-limited. The regime repeatedly accused of war crimes has a strong supporter in the Security Council – Russia.