The Syrian Arab Republic, also known as Syria, is a Middle Eastern country with a population of more than 17 million people. In addition to facing the COVID-19 pandemic, the country is in the midst of a civil war. Civilian populations are the victims of war crimes, chemical weapons, displacement and deprivation of basic necessities each and every day. This article aims to break down the causes and effects of homelessness in the Syrian Arab Republic.
How the Crisis Began
In hopes of improving democracy, the Syrian population began to protest in 2011. Instead of listening to their concerns, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad worked to silence them. A civil war began as a result.
Russia and Iran support President Bashar al-Assad, opposing the Syrian Democratic Forces, which includes Turkey as well as Western and Gulf countries. These foreign nations have partnered with an oppressed indigenous group, the Kurds, to inhibit the efforts of Bashar al-Assad and his allies. While Turkey supports the Syrian rebels, the nation also feels threatened by the Kurds’ desire to be independent. To make matters worse, terrorist organizations like ISIS and Al-Qaeda have flourished amid this instability. The United States has withdrawn from the region under the Trump administration, but many countries are still involved.
4 Facts about Homelessness in the Syrian Arab Republic
- Internal displacement: According to the United Nations, more than 6.5 million people are internationally displaced within Syria. In 2018, CNN reported that 180,000 children had to leave their homes in as little as three weeks. While many were fleeing violence, others had no choice but to sell essential belongings like furniture — and eventually their homes — to afford basic necessities. Many Syrians, including 35-year-old Awad Abu Abdu, feel robbed and exploited of their life earnings as they received far less than what their properties were worth.
- Relocation: As a result of the violence, up to 4.5 million Syrians have been forced to relocate to areas where it is too difficult to receive aid. This is partly because Russians have blocked humanitarian assistance in areas controlled by the Syrian government, as this aid was provided against the will of their close ally, President Bashar al-Assad. The United Nations also reports that 70% of Syrians do not have access to clean water due to collapsed infrastructure. Another 9 million do not have enough food, including 1 million who are on the brink of starvation. Many Syrians relocated closer to the Turkish border, hoping to receive aid and escape the violence. However, as of July 2020, Russia and China successfully convinced the United Nations Security Council to close one of the two crossings from Turkey to Syria, arguing that only one was necessary to provide aid to Syrians. This has put a tremendous strain on resources.
- Combatting homelessness: The United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) is currently working with 15 governmental and non-governmental organizations to reduce homelessness in Syria. In 2018, UNHCR was able to provide 456,986 Syrians with shelter assistance, including 108,790 who were in need of emergency shelter assistance. UNHCR also provided 8,425 Syrians with shelter kits and 6,085 with tents. Additionally, the organization rehabilitated 2,586 emergency rooms and upgraded 6,697 homes to make them livable again.
- Other successful aid: As of June 2020, the European Union and the United Kingdom, along with several other countries, have pledged $7.7 billion to combat the worsening humanitarian crises in Syria and to support neighboring countries who are struggling to help the 5 million refugees who have fled to their countries. This is significant progress toward the $10 billion that the U.N. said is needed to combat the crisis. The fact that so many countries are willing to provide aid suggests that there may be hope for Syria.
Despite these pledges to help, however, poverty, displacement and homelessness in the Syrian Arab Republic remain severe. Efforts to address the crisis are still deeply underfunded, and more action needs to be taken. Please contact local representatives and find out how to support poverty-reduction organizations to help.
– Rida Memon