Information and news about syria

Vocational Training Centers in SyriaThe ongoing conflict in Syria has resulted in numerous challenges, including economic devastation and the displacement of millions. However, amid these trials, vocational training centers are making a significant impact by equipping young Syrians with practical skills that enhance their employability and contribute to the broader goal of reducing global poverty.

The Youth Crisis in Syria

The Syrian conflict, now spanning over a decade, has exacted a heavy toll on the country’s youth. A generation has grown up amid violence and displacement, facing a bleak future marred by lack of education, employment opportunities and prospects for advancement. The youth of Syria bear the brunt of this crisis, with many facing economic vulnerability and the risk of being trapped in a cycle of poverty. 

Empowerment Through Vocational Training Centers

Vocational training centers in Syria have emerged as a transformative solution to the challenges faced by Syrian youth. These centers offer comprehensive training programs in a variety of fields, including carpentry, plumbing, electrical work, computer programming and more. By providing practical skills, these centers enable young Syrians to acquire expertise that is in demand both within and beyond their communities. In 2018 alone, over 3,200 children and adolescents benefitted from a UNICEF-sponsored program. 

One of the key advantages of vocational training centers is their ability to equip youth with skills that directly align with local job markets. As a result, graduates are not only better positioned to secure gainful employment but also contribute to their local economies. This localized approach helps break the cycle of poverty by fostering self-sufficiency and economic stability within communities.

Breaking Down Barriers

These centers do more than just impart skills; they break down barriers that hinder youth empowerment. Many of the young people in Syria have been deprived of traditional education due to conflict. Vocational training offers them an alternative pathway to self-improvement and economic independence. Additionally, these centers often incorporate life skills training, which equips participants with valuable skills such as communication, problem-solving and teamwork — skills that are essential for success in any field.

Furthermore, vocational training centers promote gender equality by welcoming both male and female participants. In a region where gender disparities persist, these centers provide a platform for women to access education and skills training that were once out of reach. By empowering women through vocational training, these centers contribute to a more inclusive society and economy.

Fighting Global Poverty

The impact of vocational training centers in Syria extends beyond its borders. By investing in skills development, these centers indirectly contribute to the fight against global poverty. Equipped with skills that are in demand internationally, graduates of these centers are better positioned to secure jobs not only within Syria but also in neighboring countries and beyond. This reduces the burden on already strained host countries and helps create a more stable economic environment for the region.

Moreover, the concept of vocational training centers can be replicated in other conflict-affected regions or areas with high levels of poverty. The success of these centers serves as a model for how targeted skill development initiatives can lead to self-sufficiency and economic growth, even in the most challenging circumstances. 

– Valentin Lyazov
Photo: Flickr

Toys Relieve Children's Distress
On February 6, 2023, two 7.8 magnitude earthquakes struck Turkey and neighboring Syria, killing more than 50,000 people. The destruction of hundreds of thousands of homes and unthinkable death tolls dominated news coverage, with little mention of the mental ramifications for child victims of the disaster. Research undertaken by UNICEF places 5.6 million children at the scene of the tremors, living in affected provinces, when the earthquakes struck. Of these child victims, approximately 700,000 endured displacement from their homes, relying on tents and other temporary sites for refuge. Post-disaster, toys have played a critical role in easing the distress of children and providing comfort to traumatized young victims. Media outlet Al Jazeera highlights how toys relieve children’s distress after natural disasters and other traumatic events.

Stories from Child Survivors

Al Jazeera investigated the role of toys in alleviating children’s distress in the aftermath of the Turkey-Syria earthquakes. Al Jazeera interviewed 8-year-old Elif who resided in Gaziantep, Turkey, the epicenter of the earthquake that occurred on February 6. Like thousands of other children, the quake left Elif traumatized and in fear of aftershocks. But, she took comfort in a doll that she grabbed from her home the night her family fled the earthquake. “This doll helped me fall asleep while I was afraid of all the aftershocks that lasted for weeks,” Elif told Al Jazeera.

Similar to Elif, the earthquake in February 2023 displaced 8-year-old Eymen and his family and pushed them to live in a car for a number of days following the earthquake. His mother told Al Jazeera that he has carried a toy car around with him ever since — a remnant of the only place where he felt safe.

The stories of Elif and Eymen are more than anecdotes. The stories confirm that, while toys cannot fix such unprecedented trauma, they offer comfort to those with minds too young to cope with the mental and emotional stress of such atrocities.

The Psychology

Clinical psychologist and disaster trauma expert, Zeynep Bahadir, told Anadolu that toys can “work as therapy” for child victims of natural disasters. Likening toys to words, Bahadir recommended that child victims play with toys related to the disaster in order to “digest the situation.” Evidently, in need of stability and comfort, children like Elif and Eymen rely on playtime to manage the distress of an unexpected crisis.

Solidarity Through Sport

On February 27, 2023, Besiktas fans made a heartwarming contribution to relief efforts in their Turkish Super Lig fixture against Antalyaspor. As the stopwatch reached four minutes and 17 seconds, officials paused the match occurring in Istanbul so that fans could shower the pitch with thousands of stuffed toys for the children impacted by the Turkey-Syria earthquake that initially occurred at 04:17 a.m. on February 6. The gesture aimed to provide emotional and mental support to children impacted by the disaster via toys and moved millions of viewers watching from around the world.

Long-Term Implications

Six months after the initial shocks, survivors are still grappling with the aftermath. The British Red Cross has explained that “while the immediate physical danger has stopped, […] the road to recovery for the 17 million people affected is extremely long.”

This explanation is solidified by statistics. The World Health Organization reported in May 2023 that Turkey and Syria have faced more than 30,000 aftershocks since the initial earthquake in February 2023 and 1.6 million people remained displaced, living in temporary settlements, as of June 2023. Evidently, survivors are feeling the impact of the Turkey-Syria earthquakes far beyond the initial quake on February 6.

Looking Forward

With victims’ homes, families and access to schooling destroyed in an instant, the IFRC has described the situation as a “mental health ticking time bomb.” While toys relieve children’s distress, for many of the 6.2 million children affected by the Turkey-Syria earthquakes, mental health support is needed now more than ever if the psychological ramifications of the worst earthquake in modern history are to be rectified. UNICEF is committed to providing mental health support to displaced children and families but a great need still exists for further support in this regard.

Imogen Townsend
Photo: Flickr

Truffle Hunting in Syria

Syria is currently enduring one of the most severe humanitarian crises in the world. Tragically, 90% of Syrians are living in poverty due to a multitude of issues including damaging natural disasters, widespread displacement, destruction of essential infrastructure and conflict that has decimated the country for over a decade. Driven by extreme poverty, truffle hunting in Syria has become a popular way to make money despite the recent shootings that have plagued the desert terrain.

What is Truffle Hunting? 

Truffle hunting is an activity that involves collecting Middle Eastern black and white truffles otherwise known as Kama or desert truffles. These truffles are fatty fungi rich in protein and typically grow in desert regions of Syria and the Middle East. Desert truffles grow best in rainy weather, particularly in turbulent storms. For this reason, truffles are sometimes called “daughters of thunder,” as lightning has a special effect on the types and sizes of the fungi. After storms, truffle hunters prowl the deserts in search of Kama during the rainy season. Truffles are either hand-picked or dug up with simple tools and usually brought to various towns to be sold. There is no definitive way to price a truffle, as they are sold based on the size and estimated flavor.

Why is Truffle Hunting in Syria Dangerous? 

Truffle hunting in Syria was a beloved spring tradition and leisurely pastime. Unfortunately, truffle hunting has recently become a deadly endeavor. More than 200 truffle hunters were killed in Syria over a 70-day hunting period this past spring. Some hunters were blindsided by landmines buried in the desert ground, while others were ambushed by assailants using high-caliber guns. The deadliest attack occurred on February 17, 2023, when 53 truffle hunters were shot dead according to Syrian state media. Though their involvement hasn’t been confirmed, the Syrian State suspects that the Islamic State or ISIS — a particularly violent Jihadist organization — is responsible for the killings. Instead of abandoning truffle hunting and the unpredictable desert landscape, many Syrians are continuing this practice despite the risk

Why are Syrians Still Truffle Hunting? 

Today, more than 90% of Syrian civilians are crippled by poverty. Many families lack essential resources including basic needs like food and clean water. This issue is compounded by the long-lasting turmoil that has depleted resources and infrastructure, increased inflation and limited employment opportunities. Currently, the average monthly wage in Syria is approximately $18 whereas truffles can sell for more than $25. Because of this socio-economic burden, many Syrians feel compelled to attempt truffle hunting in order to make ends meet.

How to Solve the Problem

The government of Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, has gained control of targeted areas. Other allied armed groups such as Iran-backed militias, National Defense Forces and the Fourth Armored Division of the Syrian Army are also involved in the protection of Syrian truffle hunters. 

Alongside defensive units, alleviating poverty would also protect Syrian civilians by reducing the need to truffle hunt altogether. Optimistically, there are several organizations working to combat poverty in Syria. 

Oxfam is one of several initiatives responding to Syria’s humanitarian crisis. Oxfam aids more than 1.5 million people by providing safe water, sanitation, food resources and support towards securing life-saving jobs. Oxfam also assists farmers in growing and distributing food.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is another organization providing support to Syrians in need of help. The IRC has more than 1,000 staff members inside Syria working to provide necessities, create safe spaces for women and children, provide counseling and mental health services, build households and promote job stability through training, apprenticeships and small business support. 

What Does the Future Hold?

While the Syrian government has stationed several defensive units in desert territories, some of these forces have taken advantage of desperate Syrians by using them as protection or coercing them into cutting profits. Moreover, the ongoing humanitarian crisis is continuing to financially cripple many Syrians. By tackling poverty in Syria head-on, the risks posed to truffle hunters can be mitigated and the Syrian population could benefit as a whole. 

– Olivia Welling
Photo: Flickr

Syrian Refugees in LebanonSince the outbreak of war in 2011, millions of Syrians have been forced to flee their homes, creating one of the largest humanitarian crises in recent history. Natalie, a Syrian refugee in Lebanon and shared her challenges in an interview with The Borgen Project. She mentioned the support received from organizations like the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the current circumstances of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

The Impact of the Crisis

The Syrian refugee crisis was born out of the devastating war that ravaged the country. Lebanon, as a neighboring country, became a significant host country for Syrian refugees, including Natalie, as they sought safety and stability away from the conflict.

Natalie’s story provides a glimpse into the human side of the crisis, highlighting the strength and determination of Syrian refugees.

Arrival in Lebanon

Natalie embarked on a challenging journey that brought her to Lebanon, where she encountered various challenges. The devastating war inflicted widespread destruction, resulting in the displacement of families, the disruption of lives and a strain on resources. Like countless others, Natalie had to start anew, rebuilding her life from the ground up.

During the interview, Natalie shed light on the invaluable support she and her family received from the UNHCR. She expressed deep gratitude for the neighboring country, highlighting Lebanon’s generosity in opening its borders to all Syrian refugees.

Before Natalie sought refuge in Lebanon, she lived in Homs, a city bordering the northern town of Tripoli in Lebanon. This proximity enabled her to manage her escape somewhat more easily when the civil war escalated. She made the decision to leave Syria on June 29, 2012.

Undoubtedly, leaving behind friends and family in Syria was a difficult experience for Natalie. However, she found solace in the fact that Lebanon shares a border with her hometown, allowing certain family members to visit occasionally. Unfortunately, her friends have dispersed across various parts of the world in search of refuge, resulting in limited opportunities for them to reunite.

UNHCR’s Support

Amid the crisis, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) played a vital role in coordinating the protection response for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. UNHCR provided assistance in various forms, including health care, shelter, education and addressing gender-based violence.

Upon their arrival in Lebanon, the UNHCR provided Natalie and her family with essential provisions. Before leaving Syria, her family had fallen into a state of extreme poverty, with nothing left but her mother’s gold jewelry, which proved inadequate for their survival.

Natalie expresses her gratitude for her fortunate circumstances. Her uncle, who worked as a professor at Kuwait University, sent them financial assistance to cover rent, food and basic necessities.

Natalie regarded herself as comparatively more fortunate than many other Syrian refugees due to her Lebanese heritage from her mother’s side. This meant she had a place to stay and her uncle continued to support her family until they regained stability. Furthermore, her father, a successful dentist in Syria, successfully secured a position at a dental clinic in Lebanon. It took the family approximately five months to regain their financial footing.

Notably, Natalie’s resilience and determination led her to accomplish remarkable achievements. She pursued and obtained a bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biology from the Lebanese International University.

The Current Reality

Unfortunately, the situation for Syrian refugees in Lebanon has become increasingly difficult. Reports indicate rising incidents of deportation and harassment, casting a shadow of fear and insecurity over the Syrian community residing in Lebanon.

Natalie explained that while the ongoing economic crisis in Lebanon has significantly exacerbated the challenges faced by Syrian refugees, her family did not experience an exceptional amount of suffering. Her family encountered similar experiences to those of a typical Lebanese household. They lost their savings and, like many others, are now facing financial constraints due to hyperinflation.

The latest figures provided by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) highlight that Lebanon currently grapples with a complex and challenging situation concerning Syrian refugees. The country faces an overwhelming number of people in need of humanitarian assistance, with a staggering 3.9 million individuals requiring support. Among these, 2.1 million are Lebanese citizens, 1.5 million are Syrian refugees, 211,000 are Palestinian refugees and 81,000 are migrants.

The Economic Impact

The influx of Syrian refugees has strained Lebanon’s already limited resources and infrastructure, worsening existing socioeconomic issues. It has created an increased demand for public services such as health care, education and housing. Consequently, both the Lebanese population and Syrian refugees have experienced rising poverty rates, contributing to the challenging circumstances faced by these communities.

The economic repercussions of hosting a substantial refugee population have also affected employment opportunities, leading to higher unemployment rates for both the local population and refugees. Job scarcity has resulted in wage depression and exploitation in some instances, further compounding the difficulties experienced by both communities.

The strain on resources and the socio-economic situation have heightened tensions between host communities and the refugee population, posing challenges to social cohesion and integration.

Recognizing the gravity of the situation, the European Union (EU) has stepped forward to provide substantial funding for Lebanon’s support. In 2023 alone, the EU allocated €60 million in humanitarian aid. Since 2011, the EU has contributed a total of €2.7 billion, with nearly €860 million specifically designated for humanitarian aid. The primary objective of this generous support is to alleviate the burden on Lebanon and ensure the provision of essential services and assistance to both the local population and refugee communities.

Looking Ahead

Natalie’s story provides a glimpse into the lives of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, accentuating their struggles and resilience in the face of adversity. As the Syrian refugee crisis persists, sharing such stories can potentially nurture empathy and understanding, fostering greater support and compassion for those impacted by the crisis. Addressing the needs of Syrian refugees in Lebanon remains an urgent concern, demanding continuous attention and collaboration from both national and international stakeholders.

– Tanya Hamad
Photo: Flickr

Turkey and Syria's RecoveryOn February 6, 2023, a series of devastating earthquakes struck southern Turkey and northern Syria. In the early morning, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit the region, followed by a magnitude 7.5 earthquake later in the afternoon, further impacting southern Turkey. Current reports rank these earthquakes among history’s deadliest, resulting in a death toll of 55,000 and leaving 100,000 with injuries. Now, both Turkey and Syria are in need of significant humanitarian assistance to aid in their reconstruction and recovery efforts.

Continuing the devastation, March brought on heavy rainfall and flooding within areas affected by the earthquake according to USAID. An estimated 3 million people are experiencing displacement in Turkey, as reported by USAID in June 2023.

Further damage from such environmental shocks has strained the stability of shelter centers and water supply for millions. According to the UN and USAID, 1.6 million people in Turkey are now residing in “informal temporary settlements” with inadequate treatment infrastructure.


This charity organization, based in Washington D.C. since 2002, has raised almost $7 million in five months for its Turkey and Syria earthquake relief fund, which is public for online donations. GlobalGiving has made two rounds of 12 emergency grants to its nonprofit partners in response to the earthquake.

According to the organization’s website, donations initially went toward directly supplying “immediate needs” of fuel, water, food, medication and shelter; however, the organization later directed the fund toward aiding local organizations leading rehabilitation initiatives throughout the region. Other efforts and aid for earthquake survivors on the website include mental health support, economic relief and temporary housing from GlobalGiving’s donations.

Having provided relief programs and emergency aid to disasters since 2004, GlobalGiving relief funds have been mentioned by NPR, The New York Times, The Washington Post and the U.S. State Department. GlobalGiving currently maintains a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator with a score of 100 out of 100 for accountability and transparency.

Direct Relief

Financial assistance from Direct Relief’s donations has been facilitating emergency responses, transportation and the supply of oxygen concentrators, field medic packs and other necessary supplies. At least $2.6 million has gone to organizations servicing emergency responses, and a three-month update reports that a total of $14 million has been raised and donated by 48,826 Direct Relief contributors including businesses, foundations and individuals.

For Turkey and Syria’s recovery from the earthquake and aftershocks, Direct Relief provided support with medical, financial and informational assistance as it aided the Ministry of Health in Turkey and several local organizations. Its website states that “longstanding relationships” with groups active in Syria for many years have helped channel generous aid efforts.

Additionally, over the past three months, Direct Relief has supplied three charter flights that delivered medical aid containing diabetes medications, antibiotics, water purification supplies, prenatal vitamins and more medical goods. The Syrian American Medical Society, Syrian Relief and Development and the Independent Doctors Association have all received medical supplies from Direct Relief donations, according to their website.

Syrian American Medical Society Foundation (SAMS)

A global medical and relief organization, SAMS is a nonprofit that was established in 1998 by Syrian-American physicians. SAMS has presently raised $2.2 million of a $2.5 million goal from 9,986 donors. Medical personnel have cared for patients of all ages as SAMS aims to include “extensive follow-up medical care and rehabilitation” for survivors, as reported on its website.

Despite facing displacement due to the earthquake, the 2,400 staff members of SAMS continued to work tirelessly, providing urgent medical care and delivering supplies to their clinics and hospitals. As per the organization’s website, at least four SAMS medical facilities suffered damage, leaving three of them out of service. Despite the challenges, SAMS has supported 36 medical clinics in the affected regions of northwest Syria.

This non-religious and non-political organization has carried out heroic work, including rescuing a newborn baby from the rubble and treating a three-month-old with a fractured skull. The dedicated SAMS medical team has provided treatment to more than 2,000 earthquake victims since the beginning of the disaster.

– Lucy Cosme Vera
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Syrian Refugees' Health
More than 5 million Syrian people fled their homes to neighboring countries, such as Lebanon and Jordan, due to mass displacement in the wake of conflict. Many of these refugees are older people with different health issues who seek assistance. Despite the best efforts of the humanitarian response, some elderly Syrian refugees’ health is neglected due to a lack of data, institutional biases and underfunding.

Identifying the Prevalence of Health Issues

As a result of the demands of the current Syrian refugee crisis, Lebanese health and social workers have identified the prevalence of non-communicable diseases among older Syrian refugees, such as diabetes, blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease. Additionally, psychologists have observed that many people have to confine themselves to homes due to bone and joint complications, leading to social isolation and mental health problems. Elderly Syrian refugees’ health is neglected because of poor hygiene and access to clean water.

This, along with the fact that many people live in small, cold tents with many people living in it, leads to pulmonary complications and skin disorders like scabies. Additionally, lack of food causes malnutrition, which impairs their immune system, making them susceptible to diseases such as flu and diarrhea.

According to a 2014 Handicap International and HelpAge International report, many of their patients with Syrian refugee status suffer from mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and psychosis. HelpAge International’s Chief Executive Officer, Toby Porter, claims that the lack of psychosocial care for older people negatively impacts their family’s well-being.

Senior Refugees Face a Variety of Problems

In 2021, according to the Vulnerability Assessment of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon (VASyR), primary health care and hospital care were less accessible for households with the lowest expenditures. The study demonstrates that those with the least resources were the least likely to receive the necessary care, likely due to a lack of adequate insurance or the ability to pay out-of-pocket for medical care. Thus, this highlights the need for greater financial support for medical care so that those with the least resources can still access the care they need.

A 2022 Conflict and Health article suggests that there needs to be more awareness of the needs of older refugees in the aid sector, which focuses mostly on children, women and young adults regarding financial support and medical services. Providing assistance to older refugees should be a priority. Social workers have noted that even though hearing aid and eyeglass campaigns are often conducted, they benefit children and young adults.

According to social workers, donors should prioritize older refugees, allowing them to receive adequate medical care and assistance. A Caritas Lebanon Migrant Centre (CLMC) Board Committee member, Kamal Sioufi, commented: “Older refugees have so many needs, which are not yet a priority for the humanitarian aid actors responding to this crisis.”

Urgent Steps Needed for Improved Care

According to a Handicap International and HelpAge International report, it is also essential to improve the accessibility of health care for people with specific needs. It is crucial that psychological distress services are readily available and tailored to meet the needs of individual clients. The health care staff should have training in diagnosing chronic diseases and receive adequate consultation time. Providing complete information about how to manage patients’ conditions will enable them to help them more effectively. Health care professionals should receive essential psychological distress services as well as training on how to assist elderly individuals.

Since 2013, HelpAge International has been working with older Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Around 2,000 patients have benefited from health consultations, nutrition lessons, cooking classes and social events. Furthermore, HelpAge has trained humanitarian and government workers on older people’s health issues.

Working Together

Organizations like HelpAge International have been providing health consultations, nutrition lessons and training for humanitarian workers to better support the elderly Syrian population. Continued efforts and support can potentially improve their living conditions by providing them with the care and assistance they require.

– Simran Raghav
Photo: Flickr

Emirates Red Crescent
The Emirates Red Crescent is a volunteer humanitarian organization that “supports official authorities in times of peace and war,” the International Humanitarian City says. As the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) main relief and aid agency, its main objective is to provide emergency response and organize relief coordination. Founded in 1983 through the support of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the organization garnered international recognition as a member of the International Federation of Red Crescent and Red Cross Societies in 1986.

7 Ways Emirates Red Crescent is Making an Impact

  1. Supporting Syrians: Cooperating with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the two organizations conducted “Operation Gallant Knight 2.” This initiative is part of the UAE’s efforts to provide moral and psychological support for those affected by the Syria-Turkey earthquake. In April 2023, Red Crescent members celebrated Eid Al Fitr with 150 children and orphans with cancer in Orange Mall in the Latakia governorate of Syria.
  2. Fundraising Efforts: In a recent 2023 announcement, the Emirates Red Crescent highlighted that it has gathered more than AED 10 billion (about $2.9 billion) worth of humanitarian funding over the past 15-year period. More than 228 million people in 128 countries within and outside the UAE have benefited from the organization’s humanitarian efforts.
  3. Annual Winter Campaigns: As part of its annual winter campaign, the organization launched its 2023 “Be Their Warmth” operation to provide health care, food and shelter for 500,000 people in 31 countries around the world. The aid program will operate through the support of humanitarian partners in order to reach the goal of helping half a million people. The previous winter campaign benefited numerous countries, such as Jordan. In January 2022, the provision of aid to 120,000 people in Jordan, in the form of blankets, warm clothes, food and heating appliances, ensured a less harsh winter.
  4. Syria-Turkey Earthquake Response: Responding to the disaster, in March 2023, the Emirates Red Crescent constructed a shelter camp that provided accommodation for 300 people. The camp came equipped with blankets, beds, food packages and solar lighting. Around the same time, the organization also built 1,000 solar-powered homes in Syria at a cost of $17.7 million. The homes house up to 6,000 people, providing several rooms and living facilities for families in need.
  5. Free Health Care Services in Remote Yemen: The organization’s efforts further the UAE’s aim to alleviate the Yemeni people’s suffering after years of war. The use of mobile clinics served 543 beneficiaries in July 2022 in Yemen’s Hadhramaut Governorate. As part of the clinic work, the health team conducts health check-ups on people in isolated areas struggling with access to basic facilities and health care. Since 2015, Yemen has received more than $6.3 billion of aid from the Emirates Red Crescent and the organization’s clinic services benefited close to 16,000 Yemenis.
  6. Hospital for Mothers and Children: The inauguration of the Umm Al Emarat Hospital for mothers and children took place on the island of Mohéli in September 2022 in Comoros. This is part of several development initiatives implemented to assist people affected by Cyclone Kenneth, which hit the Republic of the United Comoro Islands in 2019. The hospital will benefit nearly 20,000 people in the area through improved and more accessible health care services. The hospital was developed in cooperation with the UAE Embassy in Moroni.
  7. Responding to Pakistan’s 2022 Floods: The Emirates Red Crescent continues to send aircraft with relief and humanitarian aid to flood-stricken Pakistan in 2023. Additionally, the organization’s launch of the “We Stand Together” initiative brought together multiple humanitarian UAE organizations to deliver thousands of emergency relief kits to affected women and children. Initially, in September 2022, the initiative supplied Pakistan with 1,200 tonnes of food, health and hygiene kits and 30,000 relief kits for flood-affected households.

Looking Ahead

As a humanitarian organization that is dedicated to providing emergency relief and aid, the Emirates Red Crescent continues to dedicate its services to nations in dire need. From responding to natural disasters to addressing the health care needs of war-afflicted countries, the organization continues to provide aid where necessary.

– Grace Clay
Photo: Flickr

The White HelmetsThe White Helmets, also known as the Syria Civil Defense, is a force of volunteers that has been making an impact in Syria since late 2012. The group provides aid wherever it is necessary, from war-torn neighborhoods to areas affected by natural disasters.


Throughout the last decade, Syria has been one of the most unstable countries in the world, due to both political instability and natural causes. The Syrian Civil War, a conflict that began in 2011 and continues even now, is the main reason for this instability. The fighting mostly occurs in urban areas, and it typically involves mass artillery strikes and chemical weapons attacks. As a result, nearly 7 million people have been displaced from their homes, according to World Vision. World Vision also estimates that food insecurity currently affects 12 million people throughout Syria, while nearly half of all Syrians live in poverty as of March 2023.

In addition to the ongoing conflict, the northwest of Syria suffered two massive earthquakes on February 6, 2023. Both earthquakes registered well over 7.0 on the Richter Scale. The devastating earthquakes were responsible for over 7,000 deaths throughout Syria. According to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDS), 8.8 million people live in the areas that the earthquake impacted, and this dramatically increases the need for humanitarian aid in the country. 

Making an Impact

Over the course of the Syrian Civil War, the White Helmets have provided invaluable aid to those in need. Its official website estimates that the efforts of the White Helmets “saved more than 100,000 lives over the past five years.” The volunteers began with urban search and rescue teams, often scouring through the rubble of bomb sites to find survivors.

The White Helmets continue to make an impact today as it provides earthquake relief. In the early stages of recovery from the earthquakes, the Syria Civil Defense was able to save over 3,000 people, helping pull people from the rubble of destroyed buildings, delivering food and medicine to those in need and distributing medical care all around the affected area.

The Story Continues

Now an influential organization, the White Helmets began as nothing more than groups of everyday people who wanted to look out for others. When the Syrian Civil War first began, there was little to no effective infrastructure to help those hurt in bombings, shootings and a variety of other deadly hazards that the war caused. Despite a total lack of organization and incredible danger, the first members of the White Helmets took it upon themselves to help those in need.

The institution has come a long way since those days, as it has become one of the most well-known aid organizations currently operating in Syria. The White Helmets got a nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2016. Although it didn’t win the prize, the publicity gained from the nomination was invaluable. In 2016, a documentary titled The White Helmets won an Oscar for best short subject documentary. The White Helmets’ impact has earned recognition from around the globe, and the organization’s work continues to make a difference.

– Ezra Bernstein
Photo: Flickr

Syrian Refugee Crisis
More than 10 years of conflict in the Middle Eastern country of Syria has led to the world’s largest refugee crisis. Since the onset of the crisis in March 2011, more than 14 million Syrians have had to flee their home country in hopes of finding refuge elsewhere, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency. Addressing the Syrian refugee crisis is a priority for Syria’s neighboring countries and humanitarian organizations.

Tension at the Border

Syria has approximately a 100-mile-long coastline on the Mediterranean Sea and is bordered to the north by Turkey, to the east by Iraq, to the south by Jordan and Israel and to the west by Lebanon. Militias, smuggling, the return of refugees and Syria’s 11-year war are the primary issues that the nation’s neighbors, like Jordan, are hoping to resolve for the safety of the region. Jordan has welcomed around 675,000 Syrian refugees since the conflict began but lacks the resources to adequately accommodate this high number of people.

In 2021, the Jordanian government opened a crucial border crossing and now hopes to strike a deal with Syria to declare a general amnesty that will allow Syrian refugees to return to their homeland and live in security and dignity. This will benefit surrounding countries that are struggling to care for refugees and face economic setbacks due to the ongoing war in Syria.

Important Statistics

According to the World Bank, Syria’s GDP decreased by more than half between 2010 and 2020 due to destruction in Damascus, forced relocation, casualties and economic strain — a situation that the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated.

On the other hand, Jordan’s economy is recovering from the impacts of the pandemic, with its real GDP growing by 2.2% in 2021. However, labor force participation, especially among women, is among the lowest in the world and the recent inflation problem has harshly hit already impoverished households.

According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, roughly 92% of refugees who have sought refuge in neighboring countries reside in both urban and rural settings while only about 5% live in refugee camps. However, the U.N. Refugee Agency states that “living outside refugee camps does not necessarily mean success or stability” as “more than 70% of Syrian refugees are living in poverty, with limited access to basic services, education or job opportunities and few prospects of returning home.” These statistics serve as an important reminder that efforts to combat the Syrian refugee crisis are crucial for the Middle East.

Assisting Syrian Refugees

Established in 2011 by two Syrian Americans, Syria Relief and Development (SRD) is a nonprofit organization that offers humanitarian relief to Syrians who have been affected by hunger, injury, poverty, violence and mass displacement. The instability in Syria has prompted an urgent need for resources to meet shelter, food and medical needs. SRD is based in the U.S. but also has offices in Amman, Jordan, and Gaziantep, Turkey. From 2018 until 2023, SRD has provided more than $50 million worth of humanitarian aid to more than 3.3 million Syrians.

The U.N. Refugee Agency, noting that the crisis in Syria has now reached year 13 and the earthquakes occurring in February 2023 have exacerbated the crisis, is providing relief to Syrians in need.  By the end of March 2023, the U.N. Refugee Agency had provided “core relief items,” such as sleeping bags, thermal blankets and solar lamps, to 168,000 Syrians affected by the recent earthquakes. Furthermore, under the Agency’s usual winterization initiative, more than 560,000 Syrians received “winter core relief items” from November 2022 to March 2023. During this period, about 17,700 Syrian refugees and asylum-seekers received cash-based assistance to make it through the harsh winter.

With continued support from Syria’s neighbors as well as organizations like the SRD and the U.N. Refugee Agency, there could be visible regional economic and social shifts in the near future and the Syrian refugee crisis may see relief.

– Stella Tirone
Photo: Flickr

For 12 years, Syria has suffered from grinding internal conflict and war. This has strained Syrians and their economy. More than half of Syria’s population has been displaced, both internally as well as in neighboring countries. According to the World Bank, socioeconomic conditions in Syria are deteriorating rapidly. Due to the depreciation of its currency, inflation is “rampant” and real wages are “eroding” which is constantly forcing individuals into poverty. Furthermore, the economic crisis of Syria negatively affects its neighboring countries of Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. And as the war and conflict continue, poverty reduction in Syria remains minimal.

Poverty and Everyday Struggles

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) reports that 90% of Syria’s population lives in poverty and struggles to make ends meet for their families. Since the start of the conflict, access to housing, chances for employment, health, education, water and sanitation have all significantly deteriorated. And the COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified the current susceptibility of the population. As a result of extreme poverty, with Syria’s GDP and GNI per capita declining, the World Bank officially reclassified the country as a low-income country in 2018. With this reclassification, the damage done to Syria’s economy since 2011 is emphasized, making the country eligible for funding from the International Development Association (IDA).

In 2022, food insecurity and hunger in Syrian households reached historic highs, with 12.4 million people (more than half the country’s population) reporting some level of food insecurity and 1.3 million reporting severe food insecurity. According to Euro-Med Monitor’s Chief Operations Officer Anas Jerjawi, “the humanitarian response plan for Syria has received only 25% of the necessary funding, which clearly means that the international community has failed millions of Syrians who are exhausted by poverty and conflict.”

The lack of humanitarian response from donor countries halts poverty reduction in Syria. Nearly 14.6 million Syrians require humanitarian assistance and half of them are children. Despite the lack of help from outside entities, there are organizations working to help poverty reduction in Syria as well as provide a humanitarian response.

UNICEF’s Humanitarian Work in Syria

To help poverty reduction in Syria, UNICEF, which focuses on helping children and their families, is applying multiple strategies that aim to reduce poverty and restore educational, health and water systems in Syria. According to its website, the organization is investing in repairing water systems cost-effectively, making sure further degradation of these systems comes to a halt. Along with supporting local supply networks, UNICEF will incorporate climate resilience into its programming. To support learning and maintain the resilience of families, schools and communities, UNICEF will refocus the majority of its investments in education toward initiatives that develop cognitive and capacity-building efforts. It will continue to take the lead in assisting with school rehabilitation, curriculum development and staff training to keep kids learning and catching up.

UNICEF intends to expand its preventative nutrition programs to stop the longer-term detrimental effects of malnutrition on children’s growth and cognitive development. Additionally, this will increase the ability of community volunteers and front-line health workers to educate parents about proper infant and early child feeding techniques. Carrying on with support for partners, especially in the most severely affected areas, UNICEF will work to assist health workers and community volunteers to deliver an integrated package of primary health care.

Oxfam’s Water Rehabilitation in Syria

Oxfam is “a global organization that fights inequality to end poverty and injustice.” Similar to UNICEF, the organization does support work in other areas that poverty impacts. Oxfam, with the help of partners, delivers development initiatives, public education, campaigns, advocacy efforts and humanitarian aid in emergencies and conflicts.

Noting that Syria has the largest refugee crisis in the world, Oxfam has a multi-pronged approach to Syria. This includes the provision of clean water, focus on hygiene and distribution of cash, food and agricultural supplies. Its water infrastructure rehabilitation efforts are benefiting at least 1.5 million people. Additionally, Oxfam intends to assist with solid refugee management and wastewater disposal, as well as promote public health and secure the basic necessities of life for Syrians. Oxfam also focuses on Syria’s neighboring countries that have been affected. In Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan, the organization works to help refugees access clean water and opportunities that can help improve their living conditions.

Looking Ahead

In the face of immense challenges, organizations like UNICEF and Oxfam are working tirelessly to combat poverty in Syria and provide vital assistance to vulnerable communities. Through their efforts, initiatives to repair water systems, improve education, enhance health care and promote nutrition are being implemented, offering hope for a brighter future. Despite the limited funding and lack of support from donor countries, these organizations continue to make a significant impact on poverty reduction and contribute to the overall well-being of the Syrian population.

Brianna Green
Photo: Flickr