In Syria, armed conflicts, human rights violations, and violence caused tremendous suffering to people. Along with the physical damage, they face significant psychological effects of war, such as severe mental disorders (Hedar, 2017). Compared to refugees, who tried to pursue a better life in Europe and other places, internally displaced people (IDP) remained within Syria. As estimated by the United Nations Refugee Agency, more than six million people have a status of IDP, of which 2.5 million are children, while many of them are displaced several times (UNICEF Whole of Syria Humanitarian Situation Report: January – June 2020, 2020). The impact of sanctions that were put on Syria by the US and the EU makes an increase the need for humanitarian assistance. The great amounts of humanitarian aid cannot achieve IDP, leaving them unsupported.
This paper aims to propose a primary research to examine the humanitarian impact of sanctions on Syrian internally displaced people. The first objective is to gather relevant information about the sanctions that impact Syrian IDK to understand their current needs from the humanitarian aid perspective. The second objective is to evaluate the ability of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to reach this disadvantaged population and assume the ways that can be utilized by them to improve humanitarian aid provision. The proposed research methodology will be based on a qualitative research design, remote semi-structured interviews, and literature analysis.
As the active participants of the global community, the US and the EU are the key bodies that impose targeted and comprehensive sanctions. Under the Executive Order 13,572, the US imposed the first sanctions against Syria in 2011 (Ferris and Kirisci, 2016). After that, the sanctions were strengthened, introducing military forces to the country and setting restrictive measures against the government of Syria. In turn, the EU also placed sanctions that impacted political, social, and economic areas, including finances, banking systems, oil products, transport, et cetera (Martínez, 2020). The review of the literature shows that it is quite challenging to identify the humanitarian impacts of sanctions since the conflict continues.
The restrictions set by the mentioned countries were detrimental to the Syrian economy as they added pressure to the conflict. In particular, a decline in cash reserves, the access to funds, and foreign currency limitations destroyed the financial well-being of Syrian IDP (Moret, 2015). Those who had not leaved Syria have problems with obtaining credits or using other banking system opportunities. They lack employment and experience a drop in salaries. At the same time, the price of commodities tends to increase, which also impacts the socio-economic well-being of older adults, who have fixed incomes (Moret, 2015). The general economic deterioration in the country can be evaluated as severe.
Public health is another area that is extensively affected by the tightening of sanctions on Syria. According to Moret (2015), IDP cannot receive the necessary health care services, facing a lack of medical staff, hospitals, and medication. The situation is aggravated by the fact that after ten years of war, the Syrians need various forms of humanitarian assistance, while eight out of ten Syrian citizens live below the poverty line. Almost all Syrians who are IDPs are in need of food, suffering from malnutrition (Hedar, 2017). Those with housing spend half of their incomes on food, and every fourth Syrian does not have access to water supply and sewerage systems.
COVID-19 set additional challenges as IDP cannot follow social isolation requirements, lack medications, and basic hygiene opportunities (Douedari et al., 2020). To restore the state’s capabilities for a full-scale combat against coronavirus infection foreign support is critical. However, the sanctions imposed unilaterally by the US and European countries against Syria impede the supply of necessary medicines and medical equipment (Douedari et al., 2020). Until now, the main medical assistance in Syria has come through the WHO channels. In particular, the organization helped in restoring the work of the Central Laboratory in Damascus, trained many specialists for new laboratories, and also purchased diagnostic equipment. Due to these efforts, testing capabilities have already grown, but these efforts are insufficient. The International Committee of the Red Cross also reported on the outcomes of the battle against coronavirus. It handed over hygiene kits, disinfectants, and gloves to Syrian IDP. About 750 thousand more similar kits are planned to be distributed within three months in camps for internally displaced persons (Douedari et al., 2020). Frontières and Médecins are also deploying their medical centers in Syria.
Another point is the unfairness of the distribution of humanitarian aid among Syrian IDP. While Western countries fought to deliver humanitarian supplies to the population in non-Damascus-controlled territory (in Idlib and northeastern Syria), other Syrians remained in distress. The situation was especially acute in areas that the Syrian authorities had just returned under their control, but had not yet managed to restore the infrastructure. The situation is exacerbated by EU and US sanctions against Damascus. In this way, it is likely that the West encourages the Syrians to speak out against the authorities and impedes the negotiation process between the Syrians.
In 2012, a Humanitarian Response Plan for Syria was agreed between the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Government of Syria. Subsequently, due to the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the country, this Plan was revised several times. It included three main objectives, such as alleviating suffering and creating appropriate living conditions for temporarily displaced people; ensuring their safety and providing them with housing (UNICEF Whole of Syria Humanitarian Situation Report: January – June 2020, 2020). Along with the UN and the Syrian government, the Red Cross, Canada, and Japan are involved in financing the Plan that was last updated in 2018.
A qualitative study design will be used to conduct the proposed study since the analysis of the impact of sanctions on people is needed. Informed by a grounded theory, the author will use remote semi-structured interviews to collect data about the effect of sanctions on the social and economic well-being of Syrian IDP (Quinlan et al., 2019). In particular, the sampling technique will be based on sampling WhatsApp network in a purposive manner to recruit 30 participants, including men and women of different ages. Focus groups, participant observation, and action research will not be utilized, considering safety, time, and the Internet access difficulties (Quinlan et al., 2019). Data collection will be conducted through WhatsApp and recorded for further interpretation, while informed consents will be received from participants in advance. Data analysis will integrate discourse analysis, thematic analysis, and literature research. A set of such methods as abstraction, conceptualization, and synthesis will be beneficial to provide pertinent findings.
The process of research would begin with the detailed discussion of the background regarding the sanctions that were imposed on Syria by the US and the EU. The author would explore the effects of these sanctions on the internally displaced people, paying attention to their health, nutrition options, housing, transportation, and other essential points. The research would be based on academic literature, reports, and official documents of non-governmental organizations to provide the recent, credible information. The responses of the countries that provide humanitarian aid would be explored as well to understand their policies. In addition, semi-structured interviews with the representatives of the EU and IDP would be conducted to collect primary data. The analysis of findings would serve as the basis to identify possible strategies for NGOs to support IDK people.
Expected Research Outcomes
As a result of the proposed research, it is expected to explore in detail the humanitarian impacts of sanctions on Syrian IDP. The preliminary literature review shows that sanctions from the EU and US make an adverse impact on employment, health care, access to food and drinking water, as well as living issues among the mentioned population. It is anticipated to gather primary data from the study participants and evaluate their challenges. In addition, the ability of NGOs to provide humanitarian aid is expected to be determined as moderate since they fail to ensure proper provision of support (Metcalfe-Hough, Keatinge, and Pantuliano, 2015). It is evident that the institutional standards of NGOs should be improved, and the risks of set by sanctions should also be taken into account. Based on the findings, possible recommendations will be formulated for NGOs.
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