Syria's Refugee Problem

By Danny Stoker

Over the past four years the situation has continued to disintegrate while the international community has failed to mediate peace or even mitigate the carnage. All the while, refugees continued to flee areas of Syria putting extreme pressure on Syria's neighbors and international aid agencies. Before the war, Syria served as a refuge to both Palestinian and Iraqi refugees, now many of these same refugees have become refugees one more time over. While the international community continues to debate what role it should take in the Syrian conflict, millions of refugees are living in a tenuous state. Here is a brief look at the situation in Syria.

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As the crisis in Syria enters its fifth year, the situation in the country continues to disintegrate with no immediate signs of improvement. In 2014, at least 76,000 Syrians were killed making it the deadliest year of the conflict. The EU estimates that over 9 million Syrians have fled their homes since 2011, with 3 million fleeing to neighboring countries (Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey) and 6.5 million more internally displaced. The increasingly fragmented nature of the war has split Syria into a complex web of militias, alliances, and territorial wars with the regime holding onto Damascus, a collection of Islamist and secular opposition groups controlling Aleppo, and the Islamic State fighting with Kurdish forces in the East.

The war has decimated Syria’s infrastructure complicating the delivery of aid. An estimated 4.8 million Syrians live in difficult to reach areas and another 200,000 are stranded completely beyond the reach of aid organizations. According to recent reports 83% of the country’s lights have gone off as result of power shortages and damaged infrastructure. Scarcity of food and medical care are increasingly a problem. In early 2014 North Western Syria experienced an outbreak of polio with over 100 children developing symptoms. While the Polio outbreak appears to have been effectively counteracted, access to medical care is increasingly scarce. In Aleppo, home to the most intense fighting, roughly 100 doctors remain down from over 10,000 before the war with only 12 surgeons available to service both combatants and civilians. The regime has repeatedly targeted medical personnel in an attempt to discourage them from treating opposition fighters. During the four year conflict life expectancy in Syria has plummeted by 20 years.

With each passing year of the conflict, the next generation of Syrians is falling further behind their international peers. According to UNHCR there are more than 2.4 million Syrian children not in school. Many thousands more are being orphaned, being recruited to fight, or suffering psychologically due to exposure to violence. In the besieged areas, children also suffer from starvation, malnutrition, and inadequate medical care. The long-term implication of the war is problematic for the future of Syria and the region as a whole. The international community must do more to help lighten the burden being felt by Syria's neighbors as they try to meet the needs of thousands of refugees.