THE BLOG

Don't Be Surprised If The Next Genocide Happens In Syria

If you wanted a single person to represent the Syrian civil war you wouldn't choose a soldier or a rebel. It would have to be a child. Half of the 6.8 million Syrians in desperate need of humanitarian assistance are children. Think about that for a moment: that's about the current population of Madrid or Berlin. Except all of them are children, living in a war zone.

Stop the war on children. If slogans really can change the world, if they are the only way to capture the world's attention long enough to mobilise people power with enough determination to effect political change, will this one do?

Because figures don't seem to work any more. Perhaps they have become too big to comprehend. One hundred thousand dead, over 4 million displaced inside the country, 1.7 million refugees. Yet, well into its third year, maybe this is only just the beginning.
The civil war has become a ruthless killing machine in which nobody suffers more than the innocent - especially children. This alone demonstrates the inhumanity of what is taking place. Illnesses thought eradicated - like polio - are returning. Water-borne diseases are on the rise with their most immediate victims being the very young and the very old.
Cross-line convoys are systematically checked and forced to leave behind surgical kits that would save lives in rebel-held areas. Add to this the fact that the only certain route out of Syria these days is through Lebanon, the only neighbouring country with fully open borders.
Of course not all those who want to leave can reach Lebanon. Many are trapped somewhere inside Syria, with no way out. In northern Syria 2.7 million people have received little or no assistance at all.

The regime of Bashar al-Assad did not let humanitarian workers into the border town of Al Qusayr until it had won the battle. Help won't get into Homs until that battle is decided as well. And now some rogue rebel forces have tried to block access to two million civilians in Aleppo because they live in government-held areas. The evil logic of sectarianism is making unrelenting daily progress.

Nobody should be surprised if the next Srebenica, the next Rwanda, the next massive "ethnic cleansing" - or to put it more accurately, "sectarian cleansing" - operation happens in Syria. Nobody should be surprised if the next genocide happens in Syria.

We all know where this is leading, we all understand the lessons of the last century - the bloodiest in human history. It is unforgivable that the United Nations Security Council still has not managed to pass a humanitarian resolution.

What I'm asking for is very simple. We need unhindered access to the children who need our help. We need respect for civilians from all those engaged in the fighting. We need protection for medical workers. We need humanitarian convoys to be allowed to depart from Damascus and to cross Syria's borders.

We need the government in Damascus to stop hindering our efforts with all kinds of bureaucratic hurdles. And we need the rebels to respect our aid convoys.
All of this the Security Council could say, should say, must say. Otherwise all we will do once again is to say "Never again!" - just like we said after Srebenica and Rwanda. But in Syria nobody can claim that they did not see it coming.

The European Union has raised extraordinary amounts of funding for an extraordinary man-made catastrophe. We have provided €1.3 billion since the beginning of the Syria crisis. I know that many Member States are - just like the Commission - looking for fresh and additional money.

Good things are being done with our taxpayers' money for people inside Syria and to help host refugees in neighbouring countries. For instance, UNICEF has facilitated maintenance of the water supply for almost ten million people in Syria. Between them WFP and the ICRC are providing food aid to 2.9 million people.

More than half of all the assistance is being delivered in opposition-held or disputed areas. And we also provide funds for host communities in Lebanon and Jordan to cope with the human tsunami that the refugees crisis has become.

And still we cannot deliver assistance as fast as this war generates victims. Five thousand are killed every month, tens of thousands more are wounded. Not a single ICRC visit to a prisoner of war has taken place. Not one - in more than two years of fighting.

The Security Council needs to act, to confirm at the very least that International Humanitarian Law - the law of war - must be respected. I have no illusions that a resolution would immediately change the situation on the ground. But at least it would be a first and vital step towards reaching those millions who today are trapped in Syria, with little or no assistance. More than half of them children.

Subscribe to the World Post email.