Hunger is a persistent phenomenon on the planet that is by all respects a tragedy. Some areas of the Earth suffer greater from hunger than others due to political, geographical, economic, and social problems. When however, hunger is used as a tool to break the backs of a people, the deprivation takes on a new level of heinousness. Such is Syria’s serious misfortune. Ultius presents this sample essay in-line with our commitment to address trending topics and issues of importance.
The background on Syria
Some five years ago, Sryian citizens reached a breaking point. Widespread unemployment, high corruption, almost zero political freedom, and repression stemming from President Bashar al-Assad’s leadership tactics caused a turnout of protests from the dissatisfied. Perhaps the reason why the state fell into such disarray is due to the fact that Bashar al-Assad was not an elected official but rather was the successor to his father, the former leader Hafez al-Assad. These protests were in fact synchronisticaly timed alongside several other protests that happened in the Middle-East during the Arab spring in year 2011 (Syria War).
Shortly after the protests began, opposition from the government began. Almost immediately, the government resorted to violent means to crush the inferences of dissent. This then provoked a cascade of nationwide rebellion to the oppression and the widespread cry for the resignation of Hafez al-Assad. To this rally, Assad vouched that he would annihilate the “foreign-backed terrorism” and restore the control of his state. Unfortunately, Assad and his forces have been hard at work making due on his claim with enormous firepower and violence. Protesters, now rebels, have responded by collecting their forces and launching counter-attacks of their own making it an official Civil War unfolding in Syria.
The situation in Syria
Those who protest the present political regime in Syria are now at risk of starving as the warring parties threaten to and actually follow through with the removal of food and medicine to areas that support dissenters (Naylor). The sum number of people caught in the cross-fire of power hungry madness is enormous. It is estimated that as many as hundreds of thousands of people are now besieged by government suppression forces and the correlate risk of starvation which is resulting in malnutrition.
This has many experts and citizens rightly concerned. The spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross has called that
“As the conflict goes on and on, the situation on the ground is collapsing, especially in areas that are under siege” (Naylor).
This is an observation coming from the Syrian capital of Damascus. The fact that such findings are occurring right in the main city of the country doubly serves to emphasize the wretchedness of the starvations taking place. If people within the very central city of the country are at risk to starvation, how much worse the situation must be in the outlying cities and suburbs where resource acquisition is even harder to manage, and poverty runs rampant.
Such neglect and abuse is already being confirmed in a handful of locations. For instance, Madaya, a rebel-aligned outlying city just twenty miles or so from Damascus has already had reports of innocents dying from starvation. Journalist reports indicate that children of Madaya are commonly the victims of the situation and frequently have a sickeningly emaciated constitution and appearance.
17-year-old resident of Madaya, Hiba Abdel Rahman, has indicated that for 15 days he and his family has only eaten soup and that he has seen the Syrian government with its Hezbollah allies deliberately withhold food to the city with the intention of actually starving Madaya to death. No doubt to hold on to their control over it and other regions.
Apparently, 400,000 people in the area have been the victims of a six-month blockade by the government’s oppressive tactics (Middle East). Still more people may be subjected to the abuse as 4.5 million people within Syria live in hard to reach areas. The UN has engineered an aid convoy to help many of those trapped in the area however their aide was not in time to forestall the transpiring. Another 20,000 people are estimated to be an extremely dire situation as well in the cities of Foah and Kefraya which could show similar signs of death and decay if the situation does not improve soon. killing cats and rummaging through garbage to find substance (Middle East).
The controversy and starvation
Considering that the death of many civilians is an established fact, there still remains debate about the nature and appropriate response to the severity of the situation at hand. The Syrian state – the agents responsible for the blockade and the resulting loss of life and constitution – have publically dismissed the accounts of such death and malnutrition as mere rumors. With their allied media sources, including newspapers and new channels, there is wide spread disinformation campaign that alleges the images and stories of starvation as the workings of rebel forces who are trying to capture the sympathy and resources of the global audience (Middle East).
Even though the rebels may be the victims of such cruel tactics and resource depletion, they are still known to employ similar tactics themselves. Siege strategy, where in a designated area is surrounded and barricaded in an attempt to make such an area crumble under the weight of its own unfulfilled needs is being used by either side. The result is that people throughout Syria are suffering from shortages of not only food but fuel, water, medicine, and electricity as well (Middle East).
These sieges have been laid down in a variety of locations throughout Syria making the whole region subject resource depletion and failure. It is reported that Eastern Ghouta, the region outside of Damascus, the Darayya suburb of the West, and the mountain town of Zabadani, in addition to Madaya, have all been hit by the sieges put down by the governmental agencies (Middle East). The Rebel forces have used blockades to encircle and starve the villages of Foah and Kefraya while at the same time ISIS militants are sieging government controlled city of Deir al-Zour in the East (Middle East).
The effects of starvation
As a result of Syria’s war, there has been the rise of widespread proliferation of not only hunger but starvation as well. When such famine occurs, there are many social, economic, and personal problems that arise as well. Already, many people have begun to die and suffer as a result of not getting enough food within Syria. Even when people do not directly die from hunger they still may be heavily impacted by the role that hunger has on their brains.
When someone is subjected to chronic hunger, they begin to immediately weaken in their cognitive, social, and emotional function and development. This is especially true in children who may be doubly impacted by the lack of food as they need their nutrition to progress from one stage of psycho-social development onto the next. If an aspect of their foundation is weakened, their entire life can be impacted.
In fact, lower IQ, less developed brain matter, and poor decision making are all found to be effects of weakened nutrition and hunger. The damage becomes particularly bad if the hunger is experienced before the age of two which is when 70% of the brain’s development occurs. By not giving their people sufficient food the nation of Syria is setting itself up for significant atrophies to occur not only now but into the future as well.
One of the consequences of severe food shortages is also a lack of energy as well. When there is not enough food to supply people with their basic caloric intake, they will not be able to expend energy in a number of meaningful pursuits . This may lead to severe back-ups in production that in turn to lead to further crisis. The most obvious example of this is in agriculture where field work demands enormous energy expenditures.
By limiting the Syrian people’s access to meaningful nutrition, the governmental forces have set the country on track for incredible devastation for years to come since planting, tending, and harvest of crops is a cyclical process that depends much on the work implemented in previous seasons. This spells incredible instability, mistrust, and overall weakness for the country.
Global response to Syria
Since the conflict has begun, more than 250,000 people have lost their lives from the conflict. This has occurred over just the course of five years when protests against the government began to escalate into an all-out civil war. 11 million people have been pushed out of their residences as rebel and government forces fight over the territory and who shall rule it (Middle East).
The UN has declared that this crisis in food, conflict, and politics unfolding in Syria may be the “humanitarian test of our time”. So far, the need unfolding in the situation has indicated that the crises in Syria may require a record sum of moneys to be donated, at least from the Humanitarian Response Plan convention in Geneva.
Apparently the scale of the destruction, and hunger included therein, is on a scale difficult to imagine even for the Syrian population. 79-year-old Syrian Ahmad al Ahmad has stated that “this life is worse than death”. A claim made no doubt by the audacity of having a government willing to starve an entire region of people for having harbored a few who disagree with their management style which was already highly questionable.
Regardless though of how depreciated the country’s resident’s opinion may be of their president, the major difficulty must be the actual physical conditions of dealing with their shortcoming of resources. Water deprivation is also quite sincerely loathed by the people who are subjected to the blockades. One of Unicef’s water and sanitation officers describes “you can’t imagine how much people suffer without water”.
His observation may indeed be accurate as Syria’s food and water crises reflect patterns of excess cruelty that most people are fortunate enough to avoid in their life-span. As water is the stuff of life itself, withholding it is a sure sign of something horridly wrong in Syria. Something that may need a foreign intervention in terms of financial, militaristic, or political aide, that is if the situation and parties involved seem to welcome the outside assistance. To make matters worse for the people of Syria, Al-Assad is getting backing from Russia, and their president Vladimir Putin. Putin has been a strong, if the only, ally to Assad.
The Syrian food crises is one of the world’s most recent of controversies. The considerable need of the people and the ongoing prospect of several more years of civil war is quite dire. Pain and suffering fill the region as a result of blockades that are being enforced by either side of the conflict. Who will be the first to change their tactics in order to accommodate the people’s needs is not yet known. What may be guessed at, however, is that whoever does begin to accept aide and remove the blockades is likely the more mature, compassionate, and diplomatic of the parties involved. Hopefully, the change will come soon as this is a situation that has gone far too out of hand.
30 Hour Famine Team. Affect of Hunger: the Brain. 30 hour Famine. Retrieved from http://www.30hourfamine.org/2011/11/affect-of-hunger-the-brain.
Dirks, Robert. Hunger and Famine. Illinois State University, 2011. Web. Mar. 30, 2016. http://www.academia.edu/484324/Hunger_and_Famine.
Doucet, Lyce. Syria’s civillians living a ‘life worse than death’. BBC.com, 2015. Web. Mar. 30, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35024918.
Middle East. Madaya Syria: Aid Convoy. BBC, 2016. Web. Mar. 30, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35278173.
Syria War: Why has the conflict lasted five years. BBC.com, 2016. Web. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35806229.