Since 2011, the humanitarian impact of the crisis in Syria has continued to worsen. The conflict is characterized by frequent violations of international humanitarian law (IHL): indiscriminate attacks in urban areas, the targeting of civilians and essential services such as water supply and health care, and the use of prohibited weapons, to name just a few. All of these have devastating consequences for the Syrian people, who are caught between the opposing sides. The conflict has brought not only bombs and missiles but also harsh living conditions, displacement, lack of access to food, water and medicine, uncertainty regarding the fate of missing or detained loved ones, and interruption of all aspects of life, including the education of a generation of Syrian children. Many people have fled, while others have stayed and attempted to live their lives amid the chaos of war.
In the face of these overwhelming needs, humanitarian organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) struggle to respond. The ICRC is helping people both inside Syria, who are facing extremely difficult conditions because of the conflict, and the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and elsewhere. In partnership with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the ICRC distributes food and other essentials, restores water supplies and supports medical services.
In this interview, ICRC president Peter Maurer reflects on the complexities of the armed conflict in Syria, the difficulties of providing a neutral and impartial humanitarian response in this context and the importance of the parties to the conflict upholding their obligations to the civilian population.