Information and news about syria

UNICEF and Syria's Lost GenerationA lost generation of children is quite a dramatic phrase. One would expect it to define a group of children whose duress has gone unnoticed. For the children in Syria, it’s a slightly different case. As the reports of casualties are noted every day, the biggest issue should be the loss of not only physical life but the psychological well being of children and their futures. Their plight, however, is overshadowed by external, as well as internal, desires to cease political unrest and see a new regime replace al-Assad’s.

UNICEF has been working consistently both inside and outside of Syria to try to maintain some level of balance and peace in the lives of these children. By first addressing their basic needs, 4 million people who have remained in Syria now have access to clean drinking water. 1.5 million children have received vaccinations against polio and measles. And aside from the 6% of children who are currently still able to attend school, 75,000 have been lucky enough to attend ‘school clubs’ to keep up with their education. Even for the quarter-million refugee children, UNICEF has managed to extend its basic services as well as offering protection against abuse and exploitation, two things all too common in the chaotic and insecure camps.

Resources are limited, however. Despite its plea for $195 million to continue support until June of this year, the UN reports that only 20% of that requested funding has been given. About 2 months after this request, former Senator-now-Secretary of State John Kerry announced the $60 million apparent ‘non-lethal’ aid package to Syrian rebels. While terms of ‘non-lethal’ and ‘food and medical supplies’ are tossed around, there is no direct language addressing the key issues that are important to every single person and party involved directly and indirectly in this conflict.

The Secretary of State has made it clear that his goals are to support the rebels in preventing and stopping President Bashar al-Assad from staging attacks against his own people. While the US government is set on securing the future of Syria, it seems only logical that they would realize that without providing psychological services, safe havens of learning, and adequate medical facilities to Syrian children, there will be a bleak future for Syria.

The trauma and permanent damage UNICEF reports are inevitable for Syria’s lost generation. It is going to affect the politics, economy, and every aspect of their country once they become of age and replace the current generation.

Eliot Engel, the Senior Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee and Senators John McCain and Marco Rubio sat down to discuss how “providing military aid to Syria’s opposition would bring the humanitarian disaster to an end” in hopes of continuing a peaceful relationship with Syria after Assad’s rule. Engel is currently pushing for the US’s active involvement in training and arming ‘some’ rebels (although he graciously adds that humanitarian assistance will be provided as well).

Such an obvious focus on expanding the degree of fighting is not going to bring the civil war to an end. While that question requires a great deal more of serious thought, it would hopefully require a lot less hesitation to understand that the safety and education of Syria’s children, both in and outside of the country, require immediate attention and aid.

– Deena Dulgerian

Sources: UN News Centre, Yahoo News, NPR

Opposition-Led Northern Syria Lacks Foreign AidOpposition-led northern Syria, which is controlled by rebels, are receiving little to no aid. Most of the aid is going to territory controlled by President Bashar al-Assad, thereby creating resentment and tension with those who are designated to receive the aid. Unfortunately, the U.N. adheres to al-Assad’s rules, which restrict access to territories run by the opposition. Although Syrian refugees in government-controlled areas are receiving ample aid and are cared for by the U.N., those in opposition-led areas lack food, fuel, blankets and medicine. However, the U.S. is using independent non-profit organizations to contribute generously to help deliver these necessities to the opposition-controlled areas.

According to a U.S. diplomat involved in Syrian policy, U.S. involvement through these non-profit independent groups must remain confidential to protect staff in Damascus who are still working under al-Assad. Thus, many Syrians living in opposition-led areas have no idea that the West is contributing to their aid. In the struggle to deliver aid to these areas, eight U.N. aid workers have been killed, demonstrating the complexity of fully providing aid where it is needed. The unfortunate reality is that Assad’s government is still recognized by the U.N. and is supported by Russia.

A Syrian director of the aid office in Sawran asserted that aid should be given to the people, not to the government. Many officials from these non-profit groups are arguing that as the conflict is getting worse, it is getting harder and harder to deliver assistance to opposition-controlled areas. There is also a huge amount of aid coming into Syria from Gulf countries but, again, the majority of it is to aid the Syrian opposition in its war against Assad and not to meet humanitarian needs.

In times of such desperation, many people are sleeping “crammed in leaking tents without heat or electricity. They crowd like cattle in metal chutes.” They receive two meals a day, sometimes one, or none at all. Children are said to “slosh through muddy puddles” in big sandals, so big that they fall off their feet. Recently, during a shoe donation campaign, the refugees ended up burning the shoes as firewood while desperate for heating fuel.

The medical group in Syria is requesting the international world to cross the Turkish border and deliver aid. Currently, the Turkish government is providing a refugee camp for Syrians outside of the Northern rebel-controlled border. These camps are equipped with heat, electricity, and other necessities. Additionally, schools with therapists are provided for refugee children to help them deal with post-traumatic stress.

Leen Abdallah

Source: New York Times

Take a Quiz - Feed a Family in SyriaBy taking this short quiz, participants can literally feed a family in Syria. Sponsored and facilitated by the UN World Food Program (WFP), the five questions survey will help you learn more about the crisis in Syria and how the WFP is responding.

The questions range from the cost of living expenses to refugee status. One question asks, “Of all the refugees now living in Jordan how many are women & children?” Answer: of this particular Jordanian population of 60,000 refugees – 75% are women & children. The WFP provides nutritious ready-to-eat meals for anyone in need.

The UN has just counted the one-millionth refugee coming out of Syria. More than 70,000 people have died and two million have been internally displaced since the conflict began almost two years ago. Starting as demonstrations against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, the protests quickly turned violent as opponents of Mr. Assad took up arms against the brutal crackdown coming from the authorities. There is still no resolution in sight.

Find out more – and feed a family in Syria for a day.

– Mary Purcell

Source: WFP, BBC
Photo: unostamps

Syrian_Opposition_US_Aid
Secretary of State John Kerry announced earlier this week during his first overseas trip that the U.S. will provide $60 million in aid to Syrian opposition forces. Kerry said that the aid will focus on food and medical supplies, in what he termed “non-lethal assistance.”

Syrian rebels, who have been fighting against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime for nearly two years, had not received any aid from the U.S. up until Kerry’s pledge this week. Kerry asserted that the aid will help Syrian opposition forces end the long fight to oust al-Assad and will help secure the region and avoid possible attempts of an Iranian or Hezbollah takeover in Damascus.

Besides being a security threat, the fighting has seen over 60,000 people killed and as many as 940,000 refugees forced to flee the region. Another State Department official stated that if the Syrian opposition is unable to secure the region once al-Assad’s regime is gone, it is likely that extremist groups will step in and take control.

Along with the $60 million that the U.S. will give to the opposition group, the Syrian National Council, the U.S. has also pledged $385 million in humanitarian aid.

The United States, along with the European Council, have stated that they are still discussing different means of aid for the opposition forces, with France considering sending tactical gear such as “night-vision equipment or body armor.” The Obama Administration is reportedly considering providing training and tactical supplies to Syrian rebels.

Christina Kindlon

Source: CNN
Photo: Politico

World Food Programme Helps Syrian Refugees

On average, the World Food Programme (WFP) feeds more than 90 million people in more than 70 countries yearly. In 2013, the WFP has focused its giving on refugees from the Syrian conflict that have been displaced by the fighting. The WFP has helped 3,000 people in February alone and plans on helping an additional 4,000 by the end of the month.

In order to receive the electronic vouchers which can be redeemed for food at supermarkets, the refugees must register with the UN Refugee agency (UNHCR).  More than 90,000 Syrians have been displaced by the conflict, yet only 15,000 have registered with the UNHCR.

The WFP has launched this campaign at the request of the Egyptian government and is focusing on only the most impoverished of the refugees who have drained their savings.

“WFP plans to provide assistance to as many as 30,000 Syrians in Egypt by June 2013,” said WFP’s Country Director and Representative in Egypt, GianPietro Bordignon. They work closely with the beneficiaries while implementing the program.  Egyptians have been  helping WFP by offering their homes “to be used for voucher distributions” and their voluntary contributions have impressed the WFP immensely.

– Pete Grapentien

Source: World Food Programme
Photo: NYTimes

Emerging Powers Stepping Up Humanitarian Aid for Syria
In a recent UN donor conference for Syria, a 1.5 billion dollar donation was pledged to help provide humanitarian aid for Syria, of which two-thirds came from the non-western world powers. Last year, contributions coming from Brazil, Russia, India, China and the Middle Eastern Gulf countries only made up about 5% of all contributions to Syria. This marks a shift from the historically Western-dominated world of humanitarian aid as non-western world powers begin to make more of an impact.

Contributions from non-western countries have more often than not come from less traditional avenues of humanitarian aid that are not transparent and hard to track. These channels allow these countries total control of their contribution and all credit for their actions. The recent development in donations from non-western countries has resulted in tension between the emerging powers and the West in terms of who will ultimately get credit and gain influence for these donations. However, if this recent trend leads to a proper dialogue that reevaluates some of the current flaws in humanitarian aid, it may be a boon for all parties involved.

The Western states and emerging powers both have valid reasons for being wary of the others’ operations. The West believes that their established humanitarian system has worked well to help people around the world and that other countries should funnel their money through them, lest the funds get lost or misused due to inexperience. On the other hand, the emerging powers do not want to give their funds to Western humanitarian agencies that they have no control over and that do not completely reflect their own interests.

The recent donor conference to provide humanitarian aid for Syria is a step in the right direction for all parties involved. This is not only because of the important support it provides for Syrian refugees in the short term, but also because it brings many countries which often oppose each other into a dialogue to support a common cause.

The Western countries have a system of humanitarian aid that needs to make itself more inclusive toward the emerging world powers as well as restructure some of the ways that it uses its funds. Non-Western countries would benefit from joining a system that is more structured and includes themselves in the group of already established powers. Despite the fact that the donor conference in Syria is a positive action for both sides, the most important factor is not to lose sight of those in need of humanitarian aid due to political issues.

– Sean Morales

Source: AlertNet
Photo: The Independent

Fundraising Goal for Syria Far ExceededAs the civil war in Syria rages, the international community is working hard to provide the aid and resources needed to help struggling refugees inside and outside the nation. Syrian refugees have fled to neighboring countries Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq, and the cost of aid keeps rising.

Recently, a donors’ conference held in Kuwait decided to raise and contribute a goal of $1.5 billion in foreign aid on January 31. This amount far exceeds the U.N.’s expected goal. Among the largest donors included conference host country Kuwait. Also, Gulf nations Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the United States and the United Kingdom donated most in the fundraising efforts. Additional donors include EU member states, Morocco, Iraq, and others totaling to more than 40 countries.

The aid monies will be distributed amongst two U.N.-led initiatives, the Syria Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan and the Regional Response Plan. These plans will aid in the collection and distribution of food, medical services and temporary shelters and maintenance of refugee camps outside of Syria.

With more than two million total displaced people, most serious needs include basic necessities like food, shelter and education. As the amount of refugees increases, the U.N. has released that over half of those individuals are children. NGO bodies like UNICEF and UNHCR are working hard to provide students with educational opportunities. The U.S. has increased its efforts in the regions as well.

As of February 6, President Obama pledged an additional $155 million, bringing the U.S. aid total to $365 million. Poverty in this country is growing with the ongoing conflict, but U.S. and global funds and other methods of aid continue to pour into this region as the war persists.

Kristyn Greco

Sources: PBS, Euronews, UNICEF USA, Irin News
Photo: Washington Post

Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General
Kofi Annan was the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations preceding the current Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon. In a recent town hall-style discussion at Yale University, reports Jim Shelton of the New Haven Register, the former U.N. official reflected on his tenure, during which he received a Nobel Peace Prize in 2001 for his work in advocating on the issue of HIV/AIDS and other global issues. Annan also expressed his support for reforming the U.N.

He stressed that reform was necessary both in expanding the membership of the U.N Security Council, which has five permanent and ten non-permanent members, and addressing the issue of global poverty, which is one of the Millennium Development Goals due to be re-examined in 2015.

Annan’s most recent and well-known diplomacy role has been as the U.N.’s envoy to the Arab League during the beginning of the Syrian crisis in 2012. Annan’s frustration with the inaction of the U.N. in addressing the issue famously led him not to renew his contract for the position of envoy in August 2012.

Annan said the U.S. and Russia must lead the way in shaping international consensus on a solution in Syria. Otherwise, a “chaotic collapse” there may lead to ethnic cleansing and ever greater global tension,” writes Shelton.

Kofi Annan’s urging towards effective diplomatic action is a rallying cry for nations to help assuage the mounting violence in Syria. With all the respect garnered through his long history of international diplomacy, we can only hope that Annan’s colleagues in the U.N. heed his advice.

– Nina Narang

Sources: New Haven Register, United Nations, BBC
Photo: The Elders

syria water
The conflict in Syria, which began in 2011, has left over four million people in need of humanitarian aid. The current shortage of sanitary water supplies is producing grave repercussions on children’s health. UNICEF, coordinating with other organizations including the Syrian Aran Red Crescent and the Ministry of Water Resources, is working to provide sanitary water supplies for over 10 million people.

Access to safe water supplies has grown increasingly difficult as chlorine supplies in Syria have significantly declined. Shortage of clean water greatly increases the risk of contracting water-borne diseases, including diarrhea. The effects are most detrimental to children, whose systems are not as able to bear the strain.

On February 3rd, 80 tons of sodium hypochlorite water chlorination supplies were been delivered to Syria through the Jordanian border. UNICEF will transport 1,000 tons of chlorine to regions across Syria over the coming weeks.

At the same time, the World Health Organization, co-signing an agreement with Saudi Arabia, will donate medicines and medical equipments worth $2.1 million, which will assist over 3 million people and last the period of a year.

Relieving the shortage of medicines, waste management, and the lack of clean water supplies are the three foremost steps to humanitarian aid in Syria; the international community has pledged more than $1.5 billion for this cause.

– Pimrapee Thungkasemvathana

Source: UN
Photo: Reuters

Syrian-Americans Head Directly to Front-Line of AidIf you want something done right, then you have to do it yourself. Even if that means traveling to dangerous locations with $1600 worth of baggage fees. For every report on monetary aid to Syria, there is an equally compelling report on how that aid fails to reach its intended recipients. Instead of refusing to donate money to avoid becoming part of the problem, many Syrian-Americans are completely skipping the middleman and heading straight to the heart of the matter themselves.

Every few weeks, Omar Chamma makes his way out of his Orange County home leaving behind his wife and three children. By the looks of the dozens of bags he carries with him, it’s clear he is not going on any normal trip. Omar Chamma, originally from Damascus, has been returning to the Syrian-Turkish border to hand-deliver much-needed supplies. “Every time I fly out of Istanbul, I will say, you know, this is my last time – I’m not going to go back again. Then I sit down and think about what I’ve seen. I’ve seen the desperation in their eyes down there. And every time I come back there, there is nobody there showing up to help them.”

There is no huge cargo plane, no guarded UN delivery trucks, and no transfer of money. In his luggage, Mr. Chamma stuffs as much food, medical supplies, and blankets as he can. The rest he will buy once in Turkey with the almost $1.5 million he has collected over the past year from fellow Syrian-Americans living in and around Southern California. He isn’t the director of a non-profit nor volunteering for one. This real-estate investor operates a one-man organization; no red tape, no bureaucracy, and no one to report to.

Except for his wife. Although his family has become used to his frequent trips (he has made 7 in the past year), it doesn’t take away from their constant worrying. His wife Mavis Benton Chamma states, “Every time he goes I just leave it to God. If it’s something is going to happen, at least I know he’s doing what he believes in.”

Although not as independent as Mr. Chamma, Sama Wareh has had the same calling to return to her homeland and help directly in any way she can. Her parents, however, were not in any way excited about it. Because of her promise to them not to cross into Syria on her trips, Sama has remained across the border in Turkey focusing on finding escapees who have not yet found a camp or somewhere to stay. She helps buy food for them and find somewhere safe and warm for them to live. She insists however that on her next trip, she has no intention of staying away from Syria despite her parents’ pleadings.

For many of us, leaving our families and jobs is not easy. Mr. Chamma has been blessed with the money he has raised and the support of his family to do what he feels in necessary to save his people. Sama Wareh, an artist, is able to work around her home lifestyle to go out to Syria and make an immediate difference in the lives of many. They may not be saving millions of lives, but the manner in which they do help Syrian refugees is unparalleled to the way in which the UN and other agencies and organizations deliver their aid.

When hearing these sorts of stories, remember that everyone is given a different path and purpose in life. Your heart may desire to drop everything and go out to the front-line but facing reality is equally important to make sure you make the right decisions. For many of us who donate money through an organization, read and write articles, and discuss global issues with family and friends, our jobs can be as effective as what these Syrian-Americans do. If the timing is perfect and the feeling is genuine, those who wish to eliminate all the unnecessary ‘fluff’ filling the gap between them and a cause they are passionate about will be able to. The millions of dollars donated to Syria and any other country will never compare to the face to face interactions and immediate life-changing moments that Omar Chamma and Sama Wareh have been lucky enough to experience and that many of us will hopefully have a chance to experience as well.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source:npr :All Things Considered
Photos:BBC News