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UN rights expert: Syria war a 'colossal human tragedy'

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said [press release] Friday that the seven-year war in Syria [JURIST backgrounder] has created a "colossal human tragedy" that has left thousands death, millions homeless and millions seeking asylum.

According to the High Commissioner, the ongoing human rights violation committed against Syria civilians has created a continuing problem, making it hard for citizens to live. About 69 percent of civilians are living in extreme poverty. Food prices are about eight times higher than pre-crisis levels, resulting in 90 percent of families spending over half of their yearly income on food. An estimated 5.6 million people do not have basic human necessities, such as food, shelter, health access and education. About 43 percent of children who should be in school are not. And the continued conflict has made it unsafe for refugees to return to Syria.

Despite Resolution 2401 [text, PDF], adopted by the UN Security Council, which required all parties to the Syrian conflict to immediately cease hostilities for at least 30 consecutive days to enable delivery of humanitarian assistance and evacuation of the critically sick and wounded, there was been a continuous inability to get adequate assistance to Syrian civilians, Grandi urges that "humanitarian access to those in need must be guaranteed. People must be allowed to leave to seek refuge and civilians and civilian infrastructure including hospitals and schools must be protected at all costs."

Grandi called for additional financial and developmental relief be provided to Syria, which is to be discussed at the upcoming international conference in Brussel.

Earlier this month UN investigators reported [JURIST report] that Russian airstrikes committed last year on a Syrian market killed more than 80 civilians. Also in March the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad All Hussein warned [JURIST report] Syria that airstrikes, shelling and use of toxic agents in Eastern Ghouta likely constitute war crimes. In February an UN expert reported [JURIST report] civilian violence in Syria is dramatically increasing, causing internal displacement and estimated quarter of a million civilians to flee the country.

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