With nearly 60,000 dead, some 600,000 refugees and an even greater number, around 2 million, internally displaced, the people of the civil war-stricken Syria have borne the brunt of the nearly two-year-long conflict and according to aid agencies, the country is headed towards a “staggering” humanitarian crisis.
United States-based humanitarian organization International Rescue Committee (IRC) has said that the Middle Eastern country faces a dire situation ahead of it and went so far as to say that the level of violence in the country is “horrific,” specifically with regards to the level of rape and sexual violence that is occurring in the country.
The IRC stated that the main reason for the vast number of refugees is because of the alarming frequency of rape that is occurring in the country, with many refugees citing it as the main reason they have fled the country. The humanitarian organization said there was no support structure for the victims, and that whole neighbourhoods had been wiped out, owing to the intense fighting, prompting Syrians to flee.
The agency also highlighted the fact that international aid was considerably poor, and that it was "drastically insufficient" for a "steadily worsening" crisis. The IRC’s report comes after the United Nations warning last week that because of the fighting and the severe winter weather, a million Syrians could go hungry, with the World Food Program (WFP) saying that it is presently helping some 1.5 million Syrians, but there was a likelihood that even more would continue to suffer as fighting prevented relief aid from getting through.
In other reports, human rights organization Human Rights Watch accused government forces of using cluster munitions, which face international bans, with Steve Goose, director of HRW's arms division, saying that the army was "now resorting to a notoriously indiscriminate type of cluster munitions that gravely threatens civilian populations."
Meanwhile, talks were held last week between UN peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and representatives from the US and Russia, who stressed the need for a cessation of hostilities and a political solution to be sought. This was hinted at by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who said in a speech last Sunday that he wished for national dialogue, but Mr. Brahimi said that this was a “missed opportunity.” Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said that the president intended to take part in any transitional government that might form and also stand for election in 2014.