The UN Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic reported [report, PDF] that the Syrian conflict has had an unyielding effect on civilians as it enters in its sixth year. A concerted and sustained international action [UN News Centre report] to find a political solution is needed [press release] to end the violence and grave violations of human rights, the report emphasized. The report states that Syrian men, women and children have remained as the primary victims and are often the object of deliberate attacks by the warring parties. The report maintains that Syrian society has been torn apart by the separation of communities through geographic divisions and violence. When locations have been placed under attack, the communities present in those locations have been separated from one another by checkpoints, front lines or ongoing clashes. Another example of the civilian toll of the conflict is the continued sieges of Rif Damascus, Idlib, and Dayr az-Zawr in which there are approximately 400,000 civilians trapped inside densely populated districts where food, water, medicine and electricity are scarce. With no procedures in place for safe medical evacuation, there are approximately “five million civilians enduring an unremitting deterioration of basic living conditions”. In the town of Madaya, Rif Damascus, government forces have used starvation as a weapon of war.
Civilians and children have taken a ‘huge toll’ in worldwide conflicts this past year. Earlier this month, Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict released [JURIST report] her annual report on the situation of children in conflict zones from December 2014 to 2015. As at-risk groups, children have been direct or indirect targets of conflict. Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch said [JURIST report] that hostiles in eastern Ukraine had damaged or destroyed hundreds of school, many of which were being used for military purposes. Also this month, UN human rights experts in Nigeria urged [JURIST report] the government to guarantee the safety of areas liberated from Boko Haram. A recent raid resulted in more than 90 individuals, primarily women and children. Also earlier this month, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, expressed [JURIST report] “utmost alarm” at the worsening situation in Syria and said that parties were “constantly sinking to new depths” attacking women, children, the sick and the elderly. In Flint, Michigan, children were poisoned [JURIST commentary] by drinking lead-laden tap water causing brain damage. In August, the UN reported [JURIST report] that the number of women and children being hurt or killed in Afghanistan’s war against the Taliban have risen by 23 and 13 percent, respectively.