A deadly attack on the Syrian population began last night. Government-allied forces bombing a rebel-held suburb of Damascus killed at least 100 people, including civilians and children. Hospitals appeared to be the main target of the airstrikes, with five hospitals reportedly hit today, Feb. 20.
The United Nations has run out of words to describe the tragedy—officially.
This morning, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) addressed the attack in Ghouta. Its regional office issued a powerful blank statement—a desperate attempt to draw attention to the casualties of a war that the world appears to have given up on solving.
The statement, released by director Geert Cappelaere, was followed by an explanatory note:
“UNICEF is issuing this blank statement. We no longer have the words to describe children’s suffering and our outrage. Do those inflicting the suffering still have words to justify their barbaric acts?”
Syria once had a population of 18 million. Since the beginning of the war, nearly half a million people have died in Syria, and 11 million have been displaced. Over six million of them are seeking asylum outside their country.
According to Human Rights Watch, at least one million Syrians are currently living under siege from their own government or government-allied forces, and are in need of humanitarian help.
The blank statement condemns the international community’s failure to protect Syrian civilians. But it also stands as powerful evidence of the United Nations’ own impotence in the face of just the kind of humanitarian disaster it was created to solve.