Syria has one million drought refugees

syria.drought

If peace ever comes to Syria, and the government of Bashar al-Assad is replaced, that unfortunate country’s troubles will be far from over.  Any future Syrian government will have to cope with 1 million refugees from Iraq, and 1 million of its own citizens displaced from the land by years of drought.

Thomas L.  Friedman of the New York Times recently quoted from an appeal by Abdullah bin Yehia, Syria’s food and agriculture representative to the United Nations, for $20 million in aid for Syria’s drought victims.

Yehia was prophetic. By 2010, roughly one million Syrian farmers, herders and their families were forced off the land into already overpopulated and under-served cities. These climate refugees were crowded together with one million Iraqi war refugees. The Assad regime failed to effectively help any of them, so when the Arab awakenings erupted in Tunisia and Egypt, Syrian democrats followed suit and quickly found many willing recruits from all those dislocated by the drought.

Friedman reported that the population of the Middle East has increased four-fold in the past 60 years, more than any other part of the world.  At the same time, according to the International Journal on Climatology, the region has steadily grown warmer, with many more warm nights and fewer cool days.   He went on to say –

And then consider this: Syria’s government couldn’t respond to a prolonged drought when there was a Syrian government. So imagine what could happen if Syria is faced by another drought after much of its infrastructure has been ravaged by civil war.

And, finally, consider this: “In the future, who will help a country like Syria when it gets devastated by its next drought if we are in a world where everyone is dealing with something like a Superstorm Sandy,” which alone cost the U.S. $60 billion to clean up? asks Joe Romm, founder of ClimateProgress.org.

So to Iran and Saudi Arabia, who are funding the proxy war in Syria between Sunnis and Shiites/Alawites, all I can say is that you’re fighting for control of a potential human/ecological disaster zone.  You need to be working together to rebuild Syria’s resiliency, and its commons, not destroying it. I know that in saying this I am shouting into a dust storm.  But there is nothing else worth saying.

Responsibility doesn’t just lie with the governments of Iran and Saudi Arabia.  It lies with Vladimir Putin’s Russia to an even greater degree.  Syria is Russia’s main remaining ally in the Middle East, and Putin is committed to propping up the Syrian regime.  For Russia to provide effective aid to Syria’s drought victims would do as much to stabilize Syria as sending its government more weapons to put down rebellion.

LINKS

Click on Wikileaks, Drought and Syria for the full article by Thomas L. Friedman in the New York Times.  Hat tip to Joshua Chacon for the link.

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