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'What Is Aleppo?' Reminds Us Of The War The World Forgot

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Abdalrhman Ismail / Reuters

In 2014, I wrote about the Syrian civil war and its projected long-term effects. Though the conflict was already in its third year, the increasing deadly violence and subsequent regional instability continued to make international headlines. After conducting research and a series of interviews with experts, the conclusion I drew was one you might expect: If the world didn't intervene soon, the long-term consequences of Syria's war would be catastrophic.

Fast forward to last week and U.S. Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson's questioning of "What is Aleppo?" Those three little words immediately brought me back to my article, painfully reminding me of just how drastically things had changed. That a U.S. presidential candidate could not know about Aleppo, one of Syria's largest cities that has repeatedly found itself under heavy fire from both government and rebel forces, is appalling. Sadly, it is also indicative of how the world has forgotten about the worst humanitarian crisis of the 21st century.

Worsening violence has led to widespread displacement as Syrians flee to neighbouring countries in mass exodus.

In the five years since the uprising-turned-civil-war, the Syrian conflict has become chilthe "biggest humanitarian crisis of our time." The United Nations estimates more than 250,000 people have been killed (this figure is widely disputed among various international organizations), while another 6.6. million have been internally displaced. Human rights organizations have also reported grave human rights violations carried out against the Syrian people, committed by government and opposition forces.

Yet amid the conflict's horrors, the world has forgotten about Syria. Over the years, attempts to pass legislation that would allow for intervention in the war have repeatedly been blocked by various members of the UN Security Council. A war that used to make daily international headlines has now become reserved for perhaps a small column in the Sunday paper, reflecting the significant wane in international interest. With the exception of a handful of events that have made their way on to the front page as a result of their unimaginable horrors, media coverage of the conflict has largely faded.

Children play along a street in the rebel-held al-Sheikh Said neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria September 1, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail

But in spite of this lack of attention, the situation in Syria has become increasingly desperate. Worsening violence has led to widespread displacement as Syrians flee to neighbouring countries in mass exodus. In August 2013, the Syrian government allegedly carried out a chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb, killing nearly 1,500 civilians. Shocking video, which began circulating the Internet within hours of the attack, showed victims' bodies -- many of which were children -- laid on the floors of clinics and mosques.

After five years of deadly conflict, this past weekend the United States and Russia announced a "breakthrough" deal to put an end to Syria's war. The agreement, set to go into effect Monday at sundown, promises a 10-day nationwide truce and improved access to humanitarian aid. But it has been met with skepticism, largely due to its dependence on the Assad regime and rebel groups' co-operation. Such dependence has already proven fragile; within hours of the deal's announcement, warplanes bombed a Syrian marketplace killing at least 58 civilians, many of which were women and children.

There is an informal rule among many humanitarian organizations: It generally takes a country seven years to recover from each year of civil war. Though this recent deal is perhaps the first real attempt at bringing peace to the country, one must question if we've truly considered the consequences of our inaction.

But when a man vying for the U.S. presidency does not even know about Aleppo, such a question may not need answering.

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