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International Community Must Step Up Humanitarian Response To Crisis In Syria

“The health and humanitarian response to the crisis in Syria is being severely hampered by a lack of coordination and insufficient funding,” public health doctors Adam Coutts and Fouad Fouad write in a Lancet opinion piece. They provide several statistics about the crisis, noting that, across the country, “seven million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance and more than 5.1 million are internally displaced,” and “[t]he U.N. has called for $5.2 billion for a regional response plan that includes support to neighboring Lebanon and Jordan.” They state, “According to WHO, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), and field work by the authors, there have been exponential increases in communicable disease outbreaks of measles, typhoid, leishmaniasis, acute diarrhea, and hepatitis,” and “[t]he combination of rising summer temperatures and poor or absent sanitation poses severe risks for epidemic outbreaks in coming months.”

“Although assistance has increased, it remains insufficient to meet the exponentially growing needs,” Coutts and Fouad continue. They highlight the response of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which “provide services ranging from storage facilities, water supplies to clinics, medical equipment, and food baskets,” noting, “However, divisions in response coordination are clearly apparent with many identical projects being duplicated by international and local NGOs.” They add, “Meanwhile, within Lebanon and Jordan, which have received the largest numbers of refugees, the pressure on domestic health systems is immense.” The authors state, “The international community must now seriously view the ever worsening humanitarian and health situation as a threat to regional security and their own national interests,” adding, “For immediate and pragmatic options, serious efforts are required to effectively coordinate the response capacity of the hundreds of small groups, associations, and NGOs working within neighboring countries and within Syria” (6/29).