May 23 11:15 AM

Measles and malnourishment: Syria is getting worse, not better

Syrians gather at the site of reported air strikes by government forces on May 1, 2014 in the Halak neighborhood in northeastern Aleppo.
Zein Al-Rifai / AFP / Getty Images

Three months after the United Nations Security Council managed the rare feat of agreeing on a resolution about Syria, conditions in the war-torn country have deteriorated even further, according to a report released on Thursday by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Ban’s report [PDF], his third such assessment since the council approved Resolution 2139 in February, is a depressing read, describing besieged cities, a measles outbreak, a ramped-up government bombing campaign, opposition-induced water shortages, and a markedly diminished supply of urgent food aid from the U.N. and other organizations.

“Despite the adoption of [the resolution], the situation on the ground has gotten worse, not better,” Ban said. “Parties to the conflict, particularly the government of Syria, continue to deny access for humanitarian assistance in a completely arbitrary and unjustifiable manner.”

Ban writes that he still envisions a political solution to the crisis, but his report — as Ban himself admits — shows a dire situation that seems unlikely to improve.

Here are some the report’s findings:

  • The UN’s World Food Program is reaching far fewer people than it wants to — fewer, in fact, that it did in previous months. In May, the WFP delivered food to just 22 percent of the 4,250,000 Syrians it planned to reach, a steep drop from the 47 percent it managed to feed in April.

  • Around 241,000 Syrians remain trapped in besieged regions and towns, nearly two-thirds of them in Eastern Ghouta, an area on the edge of Damascus that includes neighborhoods struck by deadly Sarin gas in a now-infamous August 2013 attack that was probably carried out by the Syrian government.

  • Though the UN holds the government responsible for 90 percent of the 150 confirmed attacks on medical facilities that have occurred since the beginning of the uprising in March 2011, opposition attacks are going up. Nine of the ten documented opposition strikes on health care facilities have occurred in the past three months.

  • Measles, which some predicted would be Syria’s next disease crisis, is spreading. Between March and the first week of May, the UN documented 965 cases of measles, 75 percent of them in Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor provinces in the east.

  • The UN is still waiting for government permission to cross border checkpoints that the government does not control, a position that has been criticized by group of international lawyers for being “overly cautious.” The UN has identified crossings on the borders with Turkey, Jordan and Iraq that would allow it to access around one million people who are currently “impossible to reach” but will not move without approval from Damascus.

With the government, according to the report, withholding border permissions and confiscating crucial medicines from aid convoys, and the opposition so fragmented that it can't negotiate with one voice, reports such as Thursday’s look to become a depressing routine.


Find Al Jazeera America on your TV

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter