Casualties soar by nearly 50 percent since creation of 'de-escalation zones' in Syria

Casualties soar by nearly 50 percent since creation of 'de-escalation zones' in Syria
The number of civilians being killed every day in Syria has increased 45 percent since de-escalation zones were created, according to new analysis.
5 min read
13 March, 2018
Children have been especially affected by Syria's brutal war [Getty]
New analysis conducted by international aid group Save the Children shows a "complete failure of so-called de-escalation zones and other international action in Syria".

According to the group's analysis, an average of 37 civilians have been killed every day since mid-2017 - an increase of 45 percent across Syria since the creation of "de-escalation zones" including in Idlib and Eastern Ghouta.

As the war in Syria enters its eighth year, Save the Children is urging the international community to stop the "culture of impunity" that has taken hold over fighting in war-torn areas, push for an immediate end to the violence, and increase monitoring and accountability for violations of international law.

"The children of Syria have been let down by the world for too long. Nearly three million children have grown up knowing nothing but war," Sonia Khush, Syria response director for Save the Children, said.

"Despite the recent promises of a ceasefire, children are still being bombed in their homes, schools and hospitals. Families are hiding in basements and have not had access to basics like food and medical supplies for many months. Aid must never be used as a weapon of war in this way. 

"Even the places set up to be safe for civilians, the so-called 'de-escalation' zones are now the centres of violence. There must be an immediate end to the violence so that aid agencies like us can deliver lifesaving aid to the hundreds of thousands of children trapped in Eastern Ghouta and other areas affected by conflict."

In Eastern Ghouta, where more than a thousand people have been killed in the past few weeks alone, children have been forced to live in basements and makeshift shelters where they're still being killed by bombing and shelling, dying from untreated wounds, preventable illnesses and malnutrition, and suffering from severe toxic stress.

Many are in constant fear for their lives, frequently on the run, and having their futures slip out of their grasp as schools are attacked and they are forced to drop out of education.
Even the places set up to be safe for civilians, the so-called 'de-escalation' zones are now the centres of violence

Four de-escalation zones (DEZ) were announced across Syria in mid-2017, supposedly providing spaces for civilians that would be safe from attack and suggesting the crisis could be nearing its end. In fact, recent events show that far from providing a haven from shelling, things are getting worse in some of those areas. The group's analysis finds that since the zones were announced, there has been: 

  • Record levels of displacement, with up to 250 children fleeing every hour, with numbers increasing by 60 percent since the DEZs were announced. The last quarter of the year showed the highest rate of displacement inside Syria for the past five years, with more than one million people made homeless in three months. 

  • Civilian casualties increased by 45 percent, with at least 37 civilians reportedly killed by explosive weapons each day across Syria, the highest rate for several years.

  • Rising attacks on education: More than 60 schools in Eastern Ghouta have been damaged or destroyed by bombing in the first two weeks of 2018. Save the Children-supported schools in northwest Syria report the number of days they are forced to close due to violence has quadrupled. Education assessments showed children are falling years behind.

  • A health facility is attacked almost every two days disrupting vital services to thousands of people in need of medical care, surgery or pregnant women about to give birth.

  • Systematic denial of aid: More than two million people - half of them children - in areas classified by the UN as "hard to reach" or "besieged" have been prevented from receiving a single aid convoy of vital food and medicine, causing record levels of child malnutrition and leaving doctors re-using bandages and needles.

According to the report, many young children have grown up under unimaginably traumatic circumstances with insufficient access to affordable food and medical care.  

My little daughter, as soon as a plane comes, she gets a seizure. From being nervous, she gets a seizure and loses consciousness

Teachers interviewed in Eastern Ghouta spoke of daily occurrences of children fainting from hunger in the middle of class.

Some parents are only able to feed their children on alternate days as food prices skyrocket. In besieged Eastern Ghouta, which was once considered one of Syria's breadbaskets, the price of bread is as much as 16 times as nearby markets.

Parents speak of children unable to sleep due to nightmares and panic attacks when they hear loud noises.

"The thing that scares us most is the warplanes," said one Syrian mother. "My little daughter, as soon as a plane comes, she gets a seizure. From being nervous, she gets a seizure and loses consciousness."

One aid worker said he met a boy who had never seen an apple before and was fearful of it. Another ate an unpeeled banana, while some children are known to hide bread in case they run out of food.

Hany, 11, described the moment his school was attacked in Idlib: "She [the teacher] was standing by the window and she told us that she'd go and get us pens and paper. Before she could do that, she was hit in the head and we saw she was dead."

Kevin Watkins is CEO of Save the Children UK. "The international community can not stand by and let a generation of children suffer like this. We need an immediate ceasefire in Syria, and we need to get the warring parties round the table to agree a lasting end to the violence that has shattered so many lives," he said.

"The war in Syria is a stark reminder of the dangers children in conflict face, living in perpetual fear and at risk of injury or death in their homes, schools and playgrounds. There is an urgent need for the global community, including the UK, to play a greater role in protecting children and their families from bombs and bullets."