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Syria's blackout demonstrates deadly entry into fifth year of civil war


Syria's blackout demonstrates deadly entry into fifth year of civil war


Syria is in darkness. A progression of satellite images shows how, over the four-year stretch of the war, 83 percent of the country’s lights have gone out. The images were taken between March 2011 and February this year. The cities worst affected by the war are Aleppo, Raaqa, Homs and Hama. The capital, Damascus, has lost relatively less: one third of its lighting. The view is from 800 km above the earth — Syria’s blackout of fear and death.

Bombing of civilians
Unverifiable video is said to a warplane of the Assad regime bombing Der al Asafeer in the suburbs of Damascus this week.

More such footage shows a helicopter said to be of the same side dropping a barrel bomb over Al Sakhour, Aleppo.

Barrel bombs can destroy whole neighbourhoods.

With civilians being indiscriminately killed and wounded, the practice has been condemned by 130 NGOs under the coalition name WithSyria.

Death rate climbing
2014 was the bloodiest year so far, for which the predominant estimate of deaths is 76,000. Since the start of the war, 210,000 people have been killed.

Danger from hunger, poor aid distribution
Meanwhile, international humanitarian aid has great difficulty getting to the Syrian population. What we see here is rare: distribution last year in two besieged parts of Aleppo.

NGOs say almost eight million Syrians lived in restricted access zones in 2014; the figure had doubled year-on-year, with all the risks of starvation.

Torture breeds torture
There is also death by torture in Syria. A photo exhibition at the United Nations headquarters in New York reveals a glimpse of the horror. The images smuggled out by an army forensics photographer show the results of torture inflicted by the Assad regime, said Syrian opposition envoy Najib Ghadbian.

“Last month, according to a human rights organisation, the regime tortured 84 prisoners to death in February 2015. Accountability must be part of any pursuit of a political solution. It was the lack of accountability that encouraged these crimes, that encouraged later on extremist groups like ISIS to do something similar.”

UN resolutions not being applied
The UN Security Council last week voted another resolution condemning the use of poisonous chlorine gas in the conflict. The Council threatens to act if this continues. Last year it passed three such resolutions aimed at sparing Syrian civilians, but without enforcing the resolutions.

Children growing up as refugees
We spoke to UNICEF Regional Child Protection Advisor Laurent Chapuis, whose experience in Jordan preceded Syria.

Laurence Alexandrowicz asked him how he has found working in Syria.

Laurent Chapuis, UNICEF Regional Child Protection Advisor: “It is extremely difficult, but we’re responding to the needs of 14 million children affected by this crisis today, whether in Syria or in the neighbour countries. In 2014, UNICEF and its partners managed to vaccinate three million children in Syria, against polio mainly, in government-controlled areas but also in areas controlled by the opposition. We’ve also vaccinated more than 800,000 against the measles and we’re supporting access to education for 2.8 million children in Syria.”

euronews: “How have you seen things evolve over four years? There are Bashar al Assad’s bombs, and for months now the cruelty of the group Islamic State.”

Chapuis: “Children’s living conditions have steadily deteriorated in Syria. They are subjected to extremely serious abuses, such as being recruited by armed groups, and also held prisoner. They are also subjected to violent sexual abuse. Their schools and health centres are attacked. These abuses have gotten increasingly bad over four years.”

euronews: “We know so little about what’s happening in Syria. Are there areas where civilians suffer less and life is almost normal for children?”

Chapuis: “There are places in Syria where schools are always open and health centres are working. However, even if we think the situation in those areas is normal, you have to know that even in Damascus there are people under siege. One notable example, recently, is the major Palestinian camp in Damascus, Yarmouk, which the government and opposition forces have fought hard over, where 20,000 Palestinians struggle to survive, and where humanitarian aid, whether it’s medical or food, only trickles in.”

euronews: “Are there children who flee on their own?”

Chapuis: “There are two million Syrian children living in neighbouring countries today, two million child refugees. Out of that, 8,000 crossed the borders alone, without their parents, unaccompanied. They also benefit from the response of UNICEF and its partners. That said, these kinds of operations are extremely complex, require enormous resources, and if UNICEF is going to make these operations work in 2015, it is going to need more than 900 million dollars to be able to respond to the needs of Syrian children in Syria, Syrian children in the neighbouring countries, and also children in the host communities, whether they’re Lebanese, Jordanian, Turkish or Iraqi. Unfortunately, till now, UNICEF has only managed to mobilise 100 million dollars, and here we are in March already.”

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