(MENAFN - The Journal Of Turkish Weekly) >Humanitarian groups say the cease-fire in Syria is an improvement but needs to be more strictly enforced and sustained.
“While the recent agreement to cease hostilities represents important progress it’s incumbent on everyone to double down and turn this agreement into a sustainable cease-fire” said Neal Kenny-Guyer CEO of Mercy Corps which has been working in Syria feeding about 570000 people each month.
At a briefing Thursday in Washington Kenny-Guyer said constant clashes airstrikes and shelling on the ground continue although at a much reduced level which has allowed humanitarian organizations to reach areas that were previously inaccessible.
“[Wednesday] there were five airstrikes at the entrance to Aleppo city. Since Monday there’ve been fighting and shelling in and around Aleppo and the main road has been subject to intermittent closure. Yesterday it was closed completely. There’s also clashes 15 kilometers from the Turkish border” he reported.
Kenny-Guyer said that suffering at the current level must not continue.
“I’ve been engaged with almost every major humanitarian crisis since the killing fields of Cambodia but still the scale and magnitude of the Syrian crisis the suffering of ordinary civilians of children and mothers continue to astound and shock me” he said.
While humanitarian assistance is sustaining some lives it’s not the solution to the Syrian crisis. Ultimately the solution is political he said.
Every other day since the Russian intervention in Syria a hospital there is hit or bombed according to a doctor who has just returned from a medical mission in the country.
Zaher Sahloul the head of the Syrian American Medical Society a humanitarian organization said that in the past year 75 percent of Syria's medical centers were bombed. "And we lost many of our medical staff…This is something we have to highlight because it is not normal." Sahloul cited the Geneva Convention. "We have to respect doctors nurses and medics even if in the worst situation they are providing health care to people perceived as the enemy they should be protected and this is not happening in Syria.”
Oxfam International President Raymond Offenheiser said it’s important to think of Syria’s neighbors and the impact the war has had on them. They need investment fast if they are going to help support the millions of refugees pouring into their borders he added.
“Lebanon and Jordan which host nearly 2 million refugees have spent the equivalent of nearly 7000 percent of their fair share. In other words this is what they are spending of their national budgets as a share of the U.N. appeal to support the refugees that are actually present in their own countries” he said.
There also is enormous pressure on the school and health systems.
“Lebanon for example is hosting more than 1 million refugees. That’s about 30 percent of its population" Offenheiser continued. "Since January of last year its borders have been effectively closed to refugees…And Syrians who wish to obtain legal residency have now to sign a pledge they wouldn’t work or they have to find a Lebanese citizen to sponsor them.”
Offenheiser says in Turkey which holds 2 million Syrian refugees say some towns have seen their populations double with still about 600000 unregistered refugees inside the country.
Finally he says in Jordan “more than 83 percent of its more than 600000 Syrian refugees actually live outside the camps. So while we see the pictures of the Zaatari camps that’s not where most people actually are. They are in towns and cities all over Jordan.”
Offenheiser called it the "biggest humanitarian crisis since World War II and I think we have to imprint that in our minds and realize the seriousness of the crisis and the scale of it.”