More than 120 international organizations and agencies on Thursday released a letter appealing for an end to the crisis in Syria and to "the suffering endured by millions of civilians."
"[T]he war is approaching its sixth brutal year. The bloodshed continues. The suffering deepens," reads the letter, signed by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), the World Health Organization, and NGOs like the International Rescue Committee, Oxfam, and Refugees International, among others.
The letter comes as plans to resolve the crisis through diplomatic negotiations face delays, while international military forces, including the U.S., are accused of "fueling violence and violations of war in Syria through arms and ammunition transfers to parties to the conflict."
The UN estimates at least 250,000 people have been killed since conflict began in Syria in 2011, with another million wounded. At least 11 million remain trapped behind military blockades, unable to access meager humanitarian aid, lacking food and basic necessities. The number of Syrian refugees seeking asylum around the world topped 4 million in 2015.
"More than ever before, the world needs to hear a collective public voice calling for an end to this outrage. Because this conflict and its consequences touch us all," the letter states.
"It touches those in Syria who have lost loved ones and livelihoods, who have been uprooted from their homes, or who live in desperation under siege.... It touches those far beyond Syria who have seen the violent repercussions of the crisis reach the streets, offices and restaurants closer to their homes. And it touches all those around the world whose economic wellbeing is affected, in ways visible and invisible, by the conflict."
The groups outline a series of steps governments and humanitarian aid groups can take to help end the violence and turmoil plaguing Syrian civilians. Those are:
- Unimpeded and sustained access for humanitarian organizations to bring immediate relief to all those in need inside Syria
- Humanitarian pauses and unconditional, monitored ceasefires to allow food and other urgent assistance to be delivered to civilians, vaccinations and other health campaigns, and for children to return to school
- A cessation of attacks on civilian infrastructure — so that schools and hospitals and water supplies are kept safe
- Freedom of movement for all civilians and the immediate lifting of all sieges by all parties
"Those with the ability to stop the suffering can — and therefore should — take action now," the groups state. "These are practical actions. There is no practical reason they could not be implemented if there is the will to do so."
"In the name of our shared humanity… for the sake of the millions of innocents who have already suffered so much… and for the millions more whose lives and futures hang in the balance, we call for action now," the letter concludes.