The wording is still being discussed, but a draft copy obtained by Reuters calls for “unhindered humanitarian access” and “condemns the continued widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights” by the Syrian authorities. It also calls for an immediate “end to such violations”. The test will be whether Russia and China indicate they are prepared to back any new resolution in a vote.
The UN believes over 7,500 people have now died in Syria since the start of the unrest. Humanitarian aid groups, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and its Syrian Red Crescent partners, have been trying to gain access to areas which have seen the worst fighting, such as the Baba Amr district in the city of Homs. But so far, aid workers have not been allowed into this zone.
The unrest in Syria began nearly a year ago, with anti-government demonstrations. Since then, the violence has grown, with fierce crackdowns on protestors and opposition fighters over recent months. Many commentators have pointed to uprisings elsewhere in the Arab world, such as in Tunisia and Libya, as the spark for the unrest in Syria.
While there is some truth to that, other commentators point to the strains which have long been placed on Syrian society by five years of severe drought in the region. In a posting which first appeared on the Center for Climate & Security (CCS) website and is now published by Alertnet, the founding directors of the CCS point to the “severe set of crop failures” which have occurred in Syria between 2006-2011. Estimates from United Nations reports suggest that around one million Syrians have become extremely “food insecure” and as many as three million may have been driven into extreme poverty.
The collapse of agriculture from the lack of rain has been exacerbated by poor water management and subsidies on water-intensive crops such as wheat and cotton. The resulting migration of rural villagers into the towns and cities has put great strain on urban centres, many of which were already struggling to provide water and sanitation to their growing populations. Experts worry that the violence spreading across the country will cause even greater suffering to already impoverished communities, with little hope that an end to the fighting is in sight.
SOS Children’s Villages has been working in Syria since 1981, when the first village was built in Qodsaya, 8km from the capital Damascus. In 1992, a second village was set up at Aleppo. Recently, the national director in Syria, Mr Rani Rahmo, reported that road blocks into Qodsaya were preventing some workers from accessing the village. And in Aleppo, casualties have been reported from explosions and fighting in some neighbourhoods. However, Mr Rahmo reports that all children and SOS mothers in both the Syrian SOS Villages are well.