Syria casualties soar by nearly 50 percent since creation of so-called ‘de-escalation zones’
Latest figures show fresh levels of horror in Syria war following a complete failure of so-called de-escalation zones and other international action, with at least 37 civilians being killed every day since mid-2017 – an increase of 45 percent across Syria since the creation of ‘de-escalation zones’ including in Idlib and Eastern Ghouta.
On the seventh anniversary of the conflict, Save the Children is urging the international community to stop the culture of impunity that has taken hold over fighting in these war-torn areas, push for an immediate end to the violence, and increase monitoring and accountability for violations of international humanitarian law.
In Eastern Ghouta where hundreds of people have been killed in the past few weeks alone, children have been forced to live in basements and makeshift shelters where they’re still being killed by bombing and shelling, dying from untreated wounds, preventable illnesses and malnutrition, and suffering from severe toxic stress.
Many are in constant fear for their lives, regularly on the run, and having their futures slip out of their grasp as schools are attacked and they are forced to drop out of education.
Save the Children spoke with dozens of aid workers, children, parents, doctors, teachers and youth workers in besieged Eastern Ghouta and northwest Syria as part of a new briefing, Voices from Syria’s Danger Zones.
Four de-escalation zones (DEZ) were announced across Syria in mid-2017, supposedly providing spaces for civilians that would be safe from attack and suggesting the crisis could be nearing its end. In fact, recent events show that far from providing a haven from shelling things are actually getting worse in some of those zones. New analysis finds that since the zones were announced, there has been:
- Record levels of displacement, with up to 250 children fleeing every hour – with numbers increasing by 60 percent since the DEZ were announced. The last quarter of the year showed the highest rate of displacement inside Syria for the past five years, with more than one million people made homeless in three months. [i]
- Civilian casualties increased by 45 percent – with at least 37 civilians reportedly killed by explosive weapons each day across Syria, the highest rate for several years.[ii]
- Rising attacks on education: More than 60 schools in Eastern Ghouta have been damaged or destroyed by bombing in the first two weeks of 2018[iii]. Save the Children-supported schools in northwest Syria report the number of days they have to close due to violence has quadrupled. Education assessments showed children are falling years behind.[iv]
- A health facility attacked almost every two days – disrupting vital services to thousands of people in need of medical care, surgery or pregnant women about to give birth[v]
- Systematic denial of aid: More than two million people – half of them children – in areas classified by the UN as ‘hard to reach’ or ‘besieged’ have been prevented from receiving a single aid convoy of vital food and medicine,[vi] causing record levels of child malnutrition and leaving doctors re-using bandages and needles
Many young children have grown up under unimaginably traumatic circumstances with insufficient access to affordable food and medical care.
Teachers interviewed in Eastern Ghouta told Save the Children of daily occurrences of children fainting from hunger in the middle of class.
Some parents spoke of only being able to feed their children on alternate days as food prices skyrocket. In besieged Eastern Ghouta, which was once considered one of Syria’s breadbaskets, the price of bread is as much as 16 times as nearby markets.
They told of children unable to sleep due to nightmares and panicking when they heard loud noises. One mother said:
“The thing that scares us most is the warplanes. My little daughter, as soon as a plane comes, she gets a seizure. From being nervous, she gets a seizure and loses consciousness.”
One aid worker said he met a boy who had never seen an apple before and was fearful of it. Another ate an unpeeled banana, while some children are known to hide bread in case they run out of food.
Hany*, 11, described the moment his school was attacked in Idlib: “She (the teacher) was standing by the window and she told us that she’d go and get us pens and paper. Before she could do that she was hit in the head and we saw she was dead.”
Save the Children International CEO, Helle Thorning Schmidt, said:
“The children of Syria have been let down by the world for too long. Nearly three million children have grown up knowing nothing but war. Despite the recent promises of a ceasefire, children are still being bombed in their homes, schools and hospitals. Families are hiding in basements and have not had access to basics like food and medical supplies for many months. Aid must never be used as a weapon of war in this way.
“Even the places set up to be safe for civilians, the so-called ‘de-escalation’ zones, are now the centre of violence. There must be an immediate end to the violence so that aid agencies like us can deliver lifesaving aid to the hundreds of thousands of children trapped in Eastern Ghouta and other areas affected by conflict.
“The international community cannot stand by and let a generation of children suffer like this. They must use their influence to ensure an immediate ceasefire, and to get the warring parties round the table and finally agree a lasting end to the violence that has shattered so many lives.”
To stop the situation from deteriorating any further, Save the Children urgently calls on governments to:
- Pressure all parties to the conflict to fully and immediately comply with all relevant UN Security Council Resolutions calling for a ceasefire and an end to the fighting
- Ensure sustained safe passage for humanitarian agencies to deliver aid to populations in need, and the evacuation of hundreds of Syrian civilians in need of medical assistance
- Send a strong message to parties to the conflict that perpetrators of grave violations against children will be brought to justice, and that there will no longer be impunity for attacks on civilians,
- Support and honour commitments to host countries to help ease the burden of housing millions of refugees and prevent them sending people back before it is safe to return
To arrange an interview or for more information please contact: Alun McDonald in Jordan Alun.McDonald@savethechildren.org +962 79179 9287 / Lily Partland in London on Lily.Partland@savethechildren.org +44 7544 319 262 or the 24 hour press line on +44 7831 650 409
[i] Based on UN figures
[ii] Based on analysis of monthly Explosive Violence Monitor reports produced by Action on Armed Violence https://aoav.org.uk/category/latest_explosive_violence_monitor_updates/
[iii] Information from Save the Children education partners in Eastern Ghouta
[iv] Save the Children recently assessed 1,178 pupils (558 boys, 620 girls) aged between 5-11 in northwest Syria. The results showed just how far behind many Syrian children have fallen. More than one third of pupils aged 9-11 showed Arabic reading skills lower than what would usually be expected of a 5 or 6 year-old. Seven percent could not even recognise basic letters. Nearly 50% of children aged 9-11 were unable to solve mathematics problems that would normally be taught to 5-6 years old, with some children unable to even recognise the numbers.
[vi] UN OCHA, Syrian Arab Republic, 2017 UN Inter-Agency Operations in Review, January 2018