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Enabling Assad

The UN's Failure in Syria

A soldier from the Free Syrian Army stands on bags of UN humanitarian aid in Homs, February 2014.  Thaer Khalidiya / Reuters

At the start of the Arab Spring, Syrian newborns could expect to live nearly 71 years. Five years later, life expectancy has plummeted to 55.4 years, lower than that in Afghanistan or Libya. As violence escalated, the United Nations even gave up on counting the Syrian war dead. Its last toll was 191,369 in August 2014. Since then, it has stuck firmly to an estimate of 250,000, despite continued slaughter and a February 2016 tally by the Syrian Centre for Policy Research of 470,000. Meanwhile, more than half the country’s population has been displaced: 6.3 million were forced to move within the country, and 4.9 million fled it altogether.

Such numbers highlight the importance of long-established efforts to protect and aid civilians during wars. That was the basis of the first Geneva Convention in 1864, and now it is part of the larger body of international humanitarian law, which allows the United Nations and other aid agencies operating under

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