Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 August 2019

The world must intervene to save Syria’s lost generation

International community should be shamed by the senseless loss of young lives

Women and children in the Ouzai refugee compound, in the southern port city of Sidon, Lebanon. Bilal Hussein / AP
Women and children in the Ouzai refugee compound, in the southern port city of Sidon, Lebanon. Bilal Hussein / AP

The emergency aid package winging its way from the UAE to Lebanon will do much to ease the suffering of Syrian refugees in storm-hit makeshift camps. The UAE is playing a valuable role in what the UN Refugee Agency describes as the “robust” international response to the crisis; for the 950,000 refugees from the Syrian conflict in Lebanon, that response is a crucial safety net, but one that cannot remain in place forever.

Half of the refugees are children and each day they spend in dire circumstances further erodes their life chances. More than half get no education. Of those under two years of age, 40 per cent fell ill in 2018, laid low by fevers, coughs and diarrhoea. A return to normality is the only hope for this lost generation but many fear the fate that awaits them in Bashar Al Assad’s Syria. The fact that so many of the displaced continue to endure the grim conditions of the camps rather than risk returning speaks volumes about the horrors they fled and their terror of what might meet them if they do go back. Those fears will not be eased by the fate of many of the estimated six million citizens displaced within Syria, many of whom are beyond the reach of aid organisations.

The UN and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent have not been able to deliver food and medical supplies to Rukban camp on Syria’s southeastern border with Jordan in more than 12 months. There, 80 per cent of the 45,000 refugees are women and children and at least eight babies, most under four months old, have died in the freezing temperatures. Seven more children are reported to have died in the harsh winter conditions at Al Hawl displacement camp in northeast Syria. There can, as the UN says, be no excuse for such horrors in the 21st century. The international community must follow the UAE’s example and help the vulnerable victims of Syria’s long and painful war.

Updated: January 16, 2019 06:38 PM

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