A report by the SNHR has underlined the difficulties faced by Syrian children all around the country. The report reveals that an alarming 30,127 children have lost their lives in Syria since the onset of the conflict. Shockingly, 198 children died as a result of torture. These deaths are a heartbreaking reflection of the brutality endured by Syrian children.
MOH, WHO Recommend Enhancements for the Effective EWARS Disease Surveillance System
WHO and the Syrian Ministry of Health recently completed a joint evaluation of the country’s main disease surveillance system, the Early Warning, Alert and Response System (EWARS). Throughout the crisis in Syria, EWARS has been instrumental in detecting outbreaks of measles, cholera and other diseases and preventing their further spread. Health facilities across Syria submit weekly surveillance data to the Ministry of Health in Damascus for consolidation, analysis and response.
The EWARS mission team meets with local health officials in rural Damascus.
The evaluation team, comprising experts from the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, WHO Country Office in Syria and national counterparts, assessed 46 health facilities and laboratories in 13 Syrian governorates. The team’s preliminary findings indicate that EWARS is working effectively, with high levels of timeliness, completeness and acceptability – particularly at field level.
The team recommended that the list of diseases under surveillance be revised to include case definitions and that disease thresholds be reviewed. It also recommended efforts to strengthen staff capacity, data quality and feedback loops.
Dr Iman Shankiti, Acting WHO Representative in Syria, said that the evaluation was timely: “The last evaluation of EWARS dates to 2017. This recent assessment is critical to help us ensure that EWARS remains agile and fit for purpose. We are committed to work with the Ministry of Health to strengthen EWARS and make it even more effective.”
On World Children’s Day: SNHR’s 12th Annual Report on Violations Against Children in Syria
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) has released its 12th annual report on violations against children in Syria, coinciding with World Children’s Day. The report paints a harrowing picture of the dire situation faced by children in Syria since March 2011, with a focus on the period up to November 20, 2023.
- Child Deaths: The report reveals that an alarming 30,127 children have lost their lives in Syria since the onset of the conflict. Shockingly, 198 children died as a result of torture. These deaths are a heartbreaking reflection of the brutality endured by Syrian children.
- Detentions and Forced Disappearances: Tragically, 5,229 children are still detained and/or forcibly disappeared in Syria. This statistic highlights the ongoing danger and insecurity faced by Syrian children.
- Responsibility: While acknowledging that all parties to the conflict have violated children’s rights to varying degrees, the report underscores the Syrian regime’s overwhelming responsibility for the majority of these violations. It identifies a clear pattern of deliberate and systematic violations of children’s rights by the regime.
- International Obligations: Syria ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1993, along with its two optional protocols. Despite these international commitments, children in Syria continue to suffer gravely.
The report categorizes violations against children into seven primary areas:
- Extrajudicial Killings: Children have been targeted and killed without due process, with Syrian regime forces responsible for 77% of these deaths.
- Unlawful Detention and Forced Disappearance: Over 5,000 children are still detained and/or forcibly disappeared, primarily by Syrian regime forces.
- Torture: Children face torture from the moment of their arrests, with 198 children documented to have died due to torture.
- Sexual Violence: Incidents of sexual violence against children are prevalent and have severe physical and psychological consequences.
- Child Recruitment: Multiple parties to the conflict have recruited children, with Syrian regime forces and affiliated militias responsible for approximately 65% of such cases.
- Attacks on Vital Facilities: Schools and medical facilities have been repeatedly attacked, jeopardizing children’s access to education and healthcare.
- Blockage of Humanitarian Assistance: Humanitarian aid to children in need is often obstructed, exacerbating their suffering.
– The report provides detailed statistics on child deaths attributed to various parties to the conflict, with Syrian regime forces accounting for the highest number of casualties.
– It highlights the widespread use of cluster munitions and anti-personnel landmines, which have claimed the lives of many children.
– The report details the experiences of children subjected to harsh judicial proceedings, including lengthy sentences and even death penalties.
– It discusses the impact of child recruitment on the conflict, as well as the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.
– The report underscores the need for international intervention to protect displaced children, improve their living conditions, and ensure their rights are upheld.
The report calls for urgent action to protect and support forcibly displaced children, especially girls, and to fulfill their basic needs, particularly in terms of protection, education, and healthcare. It emphasizes the importance of holding the Syrian regime and its allies accountable for their violations, as well as other perpetrators in the conflict. Additionally, it urges states to fulfill their financial commitments to assist neighbouring countries hosting child refugees. The report advocates for mechanisms to safeguard schools and kindergartens and create a safe educational environment for children in conflict zones.
In summary, the report underscores the urgent need to address the grave violations against children in Syria and calls on the international community to take comprehensive measures to protect and support the most vulnerable victims of the ongoing conflict.
U.S. Enters Dangerous New Phase in Shadow War With Iran
The Daily Beast reports that the United States has been hitting back at Iran-linked militants after a barrage of attacks on American targets in the Middle East in recent weeks, with U.S. forces conducting several retaliatory strikes that run the risk of kicking off a wider war.
Although the U.S. says the operations are aimed at deterring further attacks against its forces in the region, the retaliatory strikes haven’t been entirely successful. Just on Friday, U.S. military bases bore the brunt of three attacks in both Iraq and Syria, according to a report from the AP.
The ongoing clashes have raised concerns that the U.S. may inadvertently set off a wider escalation, as opposed to the intended goal of deterring attacks on American forces in the region. While the U.S. has been able to counterattack without a massive escalatory response from Iran so far, the back-and-forth—and ongoing attacks against U.S. forces in the region—paves the way for possible accidents and misinterpretation.
That’s according to Brian Finucane, who previously worked in the Office of the Legal Adviser at the State Department, where he advised on the legal and policy issues relating to counterterrorism and the use of military force.
“There’s plenty of room for miscalculation or mishap on both sides,” Finucane, now a Senior Adviser for the U.S. Program of the International Crisis Group, told The Daily Beast. “If U.S. service members were God forbid killed in an attack, the U.S. may feel it has to ratchet up its response further, potentially to include directly targeting IRGC personnel, which the administration has not done thus far.”
‘WE MUST RESPOND’
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a meeting with a group of Iranian elites in Tehran, Iran October 17, 2023.
One of the stated goals of the Biden administration’s attacks on Iran-linked targets is to prevent the spillover of Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza. “The president has no higher priority than the safety of U.S. personnel, and he directed today’s action to make clear that the United States will defend itself, its personnel, and its interests,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement on Sunday.”
U.S. officials have been warning Iran and its proxies for weeks to stay out of Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza. Nevertheless, Iranian-linked forces have launched a slew of attacks against U.S. forces in Syria and Iraq almost daily since mid-October.
A U.S. warship had to take out several missiles and drones that Iran-backed Houthis launched from Yemen last month. On Tuesday, Iran-backed Houthis said it had fired ballistic missiles on Israeli targets.
‘My soul and beating heart’: Orphaned Syrian children find new family
Nearly a year ago, Nader Mohammed Al-Bakri, 43, and his wife, displaced people from the southern Idlib countryside, met their little girl Jouri, according to an Al-Jazeera report.
Nader and his wife of 22 years, who have lived in the town of Sarmada since 2013, underwent several surgeries and lengthy treatments to conceive, all without success. They were desperate to have a child.
There is no Islamic adoption in the Western sense of the word in Syria, however, fostering a child is possible and is usually a lifetime arrangement.
Nader heard about Child Houses, a temporary care home for children ranging from newborn to 18 years old in northwestern Syria. Established in 2019, it takes care of minors who have been abandoned or are unaccompanied or separated from their families.
Nader and his wife applied to be considered as foster parents to one of the children at Child Houses, and a few weeks later, they heard the wonderful news: they could foster a two-month-old baby girl.
“Right away, we decided to name her Jouri because the name symbolizes the Damask rose and she will be the flower that adorns our lives forever,” Nader added.
Jouri is now a year and a half old and has started taking her first steps and calling for her mother and father.
“The greatest moment in my life was when Jouri said ‘Baba’. I felt like I owned all the treasures of the world and forgot all my worries,” he said.
“Life before Jouri was hell and life after Jouri is paradise,” said Al-Bakri.
The joy that finally having a foster child is obvious on the face of another couple, along with a few tears. Abdul Khaliq Msalahlou and his wife Khawla Ghazi sit in a family room in Child Houses and look lovingly at the baby boy they will be sponsoring.