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How You Can Help Syrian Refugees

The Conflict

In early 2011, a civil uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began a bloody civil war which has displaced more than 12 million people…and there’s no end in sight. Four years later, the plight of Syrians is the worst humanitarian crisis the world has faced since the end of the cold war. The war in Syria has displaced more people than the Philippines Typhoon Haiyan, Haiti earthquake, Japanese earthquake and tsunami, and Hurricane Katrina combined. The conflict has claimed an estimated 200,000 lives and driven over 4 million Syrians to take refuge in other countries, making it the largest refugee displacement since WWII. An estimated 7.6 million additional civilians have been displaced within Syria itself. 5.5 million children are affected by the crisis. More photos here: http://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/europe-struggles-with-migrant-refugee-crisis/

For Those Who Stay in the Conflict Zone

refugees in Kos Greece sleeping on cardboard on the pebbly beach

The situation for the Syrian people becomes more desperate by the day as access to food, and medical services and supplies becomes more and more scarce due to deadly armed conflict. By the end of this year, the UN estimates that a full half of the population of Syria will be in dire need of aid. Last month, a US missile hit a hospital and killed at least 19 members of Doctors Without Borders when its trauma center in Kunduz, Afghanistan was hit during the bombing.

The Path and Plight of the Refugees

Many Syrians flee by the Mediterranean Sea, either directly from Syria, or after they have first reached Turkey. Just yesterday, a dinghy carrying refugees off Turkey sank and the Turkish coast guard went out to rescue the people. One person drowned and two are missing.

With a dangerous path to freedom in other countries, many of those forced to flee Syria end up in overcrowded, overwhelmed and underfunded refugee camps, mainly in Turkey.  The number of migrant and refugee arrivals to Europe via the Mediterranean in 2015 has reached more than 640,000—more than twice the number of arrivals in all of 2014 and more than eight times the number of arrivals the previous year. As we’ve traveled through Turkey over the last month and talked to Turks and people from other countries who are here to help, one thing we hear repeatedly is that people believe that the governments of other countries would rather pay Turkey to keep the refugees here than take them in as immigrants.

Despite worsening weather conditions as winter sets in, refugees continue to leave Turkey trying to reach Greece (and the EU) every day, and every day there are more deaths. Yesterday, in one day, at least Fifteen refugees, mostly children, died in five separate incidents trying to make their way from Turkey to Greece across a cold Aegean Sea.

How You Can Help

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a raft filled with refugees sinking off the Turkish coast in late October

If you want to send aid to the increasingly desperate Syrian population, it is difficult to know which non-profits will do the best job using your support to help those in need. Relief efforts have been challenged by the increasing violence of the conflict too.  Here is a list (in alphabetical order) of some charities providing aid to Syrian refugees, both within and outside Syria . By mentioning a charity, we are not giving them an endorsement, and you may want to check resources like Charity Navigator which grades charities on how effectively and responsibly they are using donations.

  • CARE is operating four refugee centers in Jordan, and is helping refugees there with cash assistance for rent and food. In Lebanon they are helping refugees get access to clean water. Staffers are also working inside Syria, providing emergency supplies for families, psychosocial support for children and emergency medical equipment and specific support for women.
  • Concern Worldwide is working to meet the water, sanitation and hygiene needs for refugees in Lebanon and for many still in Syria.
  • Doctors Without Borders is providing direct medical aid in six hospitals and four health centers inside Syria. The group is also sending medical supplies, equipment and support to the medical networks throughout Syria that they cannot access themselves.

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    Syrian refugees walking to safety and a better life outside Syria

  • International Medical Corps is providing health care and counseling services for Syrian refugees with static and mobile clinics at refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan. They are also offering medical support to the hospitals and medical facilities in these countries handling refugee care. With more than 12 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, our teams in Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan are providing medical relief to those fleeing conflict, and training local health care workers to help them. We’re also mobilizing resources to meet the escalating needs of refugees in the Mediterranean and Europe.
  • International Organization for Migration – The International Organization for Migration provided water filters, rechargeable lights, stoves, blankets and pillows in Lebanon and Iraq in June 2012, as well as winterization kits to Syrians in Iraq throughout the winter of 2012-13.
  • The International Rescue Committee is helping refugees inside Syria and in the bordering countries by providing medical and emergency supplies. In refugee camps they provide water, sanitation and education services. They also offer counseling, safety and support for women and girls at risk.
  • Islamic Relief USA is providing food, housing essentials and medical supplies for those displaced inside Syria as well as refugees in Jordan and Lebanon. To help efforts to aid Syria, select “Syrian Humanitarian Aid” on the donation page.

Syrian refugees in a tent city in Turkey

  • Life for Relief and Development is helping refugee families living in tent camps and temporary housing with food and home essentials including hygiene kits, bedding and kitchen utensils.
  • Mercy USA – Mercy-USA provides food aid inside Syria. Currently, they are assisting 1,000 displaced and vulnerable families with monthly food baskets and infant formula in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. They also distribute seasonal aid in the form of winter clothing, mats, sleeping mattresses, blankets and Ramadan iftar food baskets, and they opened a Mother and Child Health Clinic in Aleppo to serve the prenatal and post-natal needs of pregnant women. Services provided include monthly exams by an OB/GYN, nutrition counseling and supplements, as well as birthing services and postpartum care. The mothers’ newborns, infants and children under five are also seen at the clinic for routine pediatric care with special attention paid to the monitoring of their vaccination schedules and nutrition counseling. Mercy-USA distributed new winter gear, (coats, boots, socks and more) for children as well as winter-weight blankets for the entire family, knitting yarn for sweaters, and women’s warm robes to approximately 1,000 families last winter. On Eid al Fitr last year, Mercy-USA distributed sweets and toys to the children in 1,000 families.
  • Refugee’s International is a global, independent advocacy organization that successfully challenges governments, policy makers and administrators to improve the lives of displaced people around the world. 
  • Samaritan’s Purse is a faith-based organization critical needs for victims of conflict, disaster, famine, and epidemics throughout the world, often working through ministry partners on the ground. We provide food, water, shelter, medicine, and other assistance. Samaritan’s Purse provides heaters to stave off the cold of winter for people living in camps in northern Iraq.
  • Save the Children is helping young people caught up in the crisis with temporary learning facilities, child friendly spaces and programs to help them cope with their trauma. They are also providing necessities like food, blankets and clothing to refugee families.
  • Shelterbox provides tents, kitchen equipment, blankets, water purification systems and classroom supplies to more than 4,500 refugee families in Syria and recently has begun working in Greece also to provide shelter to refugees seeking asylum and safety. They also help Syrians in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. In the coming months the group plans to support another 5,000 families.
  • The UNHCR is providing shelter, protection and assistance to refugees in Syria and around the world. You can help them provide tents, kitchens, stoves and sleeping mats
  • War Child UK is helping Syrian refugees in Lebanon, providing child friendly spaces and temporary schools.
  • World Food Program provided food to more than 2 million people inside Syria in August. They have also fed more than 1 million Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq and Turkey. Their hope is to provide food assistance to 6 and a half million Syrians by the end of the year.
  • World Vision is helping in Lebanon with projects to give refugees access to clean water and sanitation. They are also in Jordan, providing basic emergency supplies, water, sanitation, and education for refugees. In Syria, they are delivering water and health services.

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