The Aleppo Tragedy: A Moral Imperative to Act

Despite the joy felt when a young Syrian girl was pulled from Aleppo’s rubble on Friday, the images from the besieged city have been shocking this week – even by the standards of Syria’s horrific war. For the past several days, the internet has been filled with ghastly images of dust-laden corpses left half-buried in the remains of bombed-out buildings. Syrian civilians continue to be killed in the latest round of bombardment by Russian and Syrian forces.  
In the past seven days, more than 340 civilians – including 100 children – have died in Aleppo as Russia and Syria engage in renewed heavy bombardment of the devastated city. With hospitals destroyed and healthcare workers killed during this latest offensive, many of the 850 wounded civilians – 261 of them children – are expected to die from untreated wounds. Injured and sick civilians are unable to leave the city to receive care elsewhere. Eastern Aleppo’s 250,000 residents who remain have little access to food and clean water. Along with the medical facilities that have been destroyed, Aleppo’s electrical grid is failing and its water supply is unsafe. The remaining residents of the city, who already lack access to the most basic needs, live in fear of the continued, unending bombardment.  
This latest siege underlines the tragedy that is Aleppo. Over the past few years, the United Nations, aid groups, and the international community have put out repeated calls for regular humanitarian access into Syria, as well as for humanitarian pauses in particularly desperate areas, such as the city of Aleppo. While aid deliveries have sporadically gotten through, countrywide access to people in need is severely restricted and dozens of communities remain under attack by various parties to the conflict. Current conditions in Aleppo are the dramatic manifestations of the most recent, visible horrors we are seeing each day in the media. 
The failure of the latest ceasefire agreement demonstrates Russia’s lack of commitment to ending the siege of Aleppo and the Syrian government’s own unwillingness to help its people. Given the Assad regime’s close relationship with Russia and lack of real pressure or action from the international community, the people of Aleppo continue to suffer and die. The efforts by humanitarian aid groups to deliver support, evacuate the sick and wounded, and work to repair water and power systems have been blocked at every turn. The conditions of the supply routes alone require substantially more time to navigate just to reach the city.  
All parties to the conflict in Syria must ensure countrywide humanitarian access, allow humanitarian aid, and guarantee the safety of civilians. All parties to the conflict in Syria must ensure humanitarian access to Aleppo – and elsewhere in Syria. They must allow humanitarian aid, and guarantee the safety of civilians. To achieve this, there must be an immediate, sustained, and enforceable ceasefire in Aleppo. All sieges of Syrian communities must also be lifted.  
It has been more than two and a half years since the initial UN Security Council resolution demanded unimpeded humanitarian access throughout Syria. And it has been nine months since the most recent renewal of that call. Syrian civilians – especially children – have been brutalized by the intensity of a conflict the international community has not been able to stop. More Syrians civilians will die of treatable wounds, malnutrition, and preventable diseases if the parties to this tragic conflict cannot come to agreement on critical, lifesaving humanitarian terms. The world must respond – we have a moral imperative to act. And if Presidents Putin and Assad have any intention of participating in a peace process, they must stop the bombardment of Aleppo now.