Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sick and injured refugee children forced to flee Syria now forced to put lives in more danger by returning

The harrowing, heartaching tales told by those Syrian refugees who have managed to flee their homeland to relative safety across any border can at times at least be tinged with a little relief.

Those faint hopes of returning home one day, mind, may be optimistically expressed while with little realistic prospect of fulfilment for quite some time - especially as the West continues to stall and Bashar Assad to tease.
Which makes it all the more distressingly astounding that many families might be putting their already-fragile lives in danger by venturing back into Syria’s badlands – even, sometimes, several times a week.
Yet that is the case for so – and too – many of the estimated 1million-plus Syrian refugees finding at least some shelter in neighbouring Lebanon, as revealed today by Amnesty.
Sick and wounded Syrian children who managed to escape the civil war-torn country are being forced to return due to a lack of help elsewhere.
The influx of refugees into neighbouring Lebanon has now become so great that many hospitals are turning away those in need.
These include families with cancer-afflicted children, or those who have suffered severe burns, bullet wounds or kidney failure, Amnesty found.
Some are even shuttling back and forth, as often as twice a week, for continuing treatment such as kidney dialysis.
They are risking their lives in the face continuing bombardment of towns and cities by President Assad’s regime fighting rebel forces.
Amnesty International investigators found distressing cases such as that of 12-year-old Arif, suffering from severe burns and infections to his legs.
He only qualified for five days’ worth of treatment funded by the UN Refugee Agency, under UNHCR’s current guidelines - and still needs another 13 operation.
These cannot be carried out in Lebanon due to a shortage of specialist equipment, according to today’s 36-page report named ‘Agonising Choices’.
Other Syrian refugees pondering possible trips back to their homeland include cancer sufferers unable to afford - or find - the treatment they need in Lebanon.
More than 1million registered Syrian refugees are now living in 4million-population Lebanon, though aid agencies believe many more are there unknown to authorities and agencies.
The official tally is expected to reach 1.5million by the end of this year, loading more pressure on Lebanon’s undeveloped facilities.
The country’s health system is privatised and expensive, leaving many Syrians dependent on UNHCR help.
Yet while the United Nations has appealed for £1billion support for Lebanon this year, only 17 per cent of the necessary aid has been provided.
Even those refugees who meet the tight criteria for who receives hospital treatment still have to pay one-quarter of the costs themselves.
Some 11 per cent of 3,170 refugee families recently surveyed by UNHCR said they had returned to Syria for medical reasons.
One father told Amnesty he and his nine-year-old leukaemia suffered son have to pass through ten checkpoints between their Bekkaa valley refuge in Lebanon and a hospital in Syrian capital Damascus.
Amnesty International’s Audrey Gaughran said: ‘Hospital treatment and more specialised care for Syrian refugees in Lebanon is woefully insufficient.
‘Syrian refugees there are suffering as a direct result of the international community’s shameful failure to fully fund the UN relief programme.’
The UN is appealing overall for £4billion for the Syrian relief effort this year, having received only about 70 per cent of the £3.2billion deemed necessary in 2013.
The UK was last year’s third largest donor, offering £231.2million – almost £6million more than Germany, France and Spain combined, and behind only the US (£694.4million) and the European Commission (£356.2million).
Other major powers have been so stingy as to be laughable, were the situation not so grave – including Russia and China, resolute UN Security Council opponents of meaningful anti-Assad sanctions or aid access improvements.
Those two are now obstructing moves to refer the Syrian regime to the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes – having previously helped Assad play the West by appearing to make chemical weapon concessions, even as conventional rockets and bombs keep raining down.
Figures released earlier this week suggested at least 160,000 people have been killed since the uprising against Assad three years ago and his regime’s crackdown in response.
Some 9.3million people are thought to have lost their homes and be in urgent need, whether still stuck inside Syria or streaming into neighbouring nations – only now intermittently returning, it seems.
A country – no, a region – in chaos can perhaps seem too weighty and complex a problem to try solving, yet for all the mealy-mouthed words offered by the rest of the world a little more direct pressure and help might just be more welcomed.

By those inside or outside Syria, or somehow just about surviving adrift in-between.

1 comment:

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