Last week, the war in Syria entered its eighth year. On this gruesome anniversary, the nature and scope of the humanitarian tragedy continue to defy description. The past year witnessed the deaths of tens of thousands of Syrians. The regime in Damascus and its allies continued to strike hospitals and other civilian targets. Aid convoys to besieged populations were once again blocked or delayed. More Syrians were blocked from seeking refuge in neighboring countries. International diplomacy did little to protect millions of Syrians trapped by the conflict.
The siege of Eastern Ghouta is the most recent in a long line of war crimes that has punctuated the seven-year Syrian conflict. Despite calls to avoid another Aleppo or Homs, the international response to Eastern Ghouta did not begin in earnest until the humanitarian disaster was well underway. It is now too late for literally thousands of people.
Earlier last week, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley declared that the latest attempt to implement a ceasefire had been a failure and stated that Washington was prepared to act if a new 30-day truce did not go into effect immediately. What that means in practice remains to be seen. In the interim, humanitarian actors continue their operations under the most challenging of circumstances. As important as they are, such relief efforts are only a band-aid. There are no humanitarian solutions to Syria’s humanitarian crisis.
Refugees International urges the Unites States to:
Pursue full diplomatic engagement in resolving the Syrian conflict: A UN Security Council resolution is an important step towards an international mandated ceasefire. But the United States and other international stakeholders will need to establish mechanisms to oversee and monitor a cessation of hostilities if it is to have a real hope of working. More importantly, an end to the conflict is the only sure way to stop the bloodshed, and the United States must help lead and support diplomatic processes that will lead to a political resolution.
Recommit to long-term humanitarian assistance for Syrians: The United States should continue to provide humanitarian aid to all vulnerable Syrians—both inside the country and in the wider region—until the time when they can return voluntarily, safely, and with dignity. This should include strong support for policies allowing cross-line and cross-border assistance.
Find new ways to help develop Syrian civil society: Local Syrian groups have saved countless lives providing humanitarian aid on the front lines and in spite of the extreme dangers. The international community’s support in building the capacity of these groups has been crucial to their ability to provide assistance in places where international organizations cannot go. These groups must be supported so they can continue must to expand.