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Poverty in SyriaSyria has been a center of conflict for years, and with so much unrest, poverty in Syria is an unfortunate given. War has torn the country apart and citizens are paying the price. The percentage of Syrians living in poverty sits at an astounding 80%. The war in Syria has destroyed much of its wealth, infrastructure and workforce. From the beginning of the conflict in 2010 to 2014, the unemployment rate rose by 42.8%, leaving as many as three million Syrians jobless.

It is unsurprising then, that with poverty this severe, many citizens are attempting to escape. After four years of war in Syria, the country’s population has lowered by 15%. Syria is second only to Palestine when it comes to emigrating refugees, with as many as 5.6 million fleeing the country. More than three million Syrians have fled to Turkey as it shares a border with Syria. However, there are organizations and foreign governments working to remedy this issue and aid these citizens in their escape from violence and poverty in Syria, including Paper Airplanes.

Humanitarian Aid

Paper Airplanes is a Non-Governmental Organization that teaches refugees English and other skills to help them thrive in places where they have relocated. While poverty in Syria has caused many to become refugees, Paper Airplanes has risen to the challenge of educating these people in order to give them a chance at a better life. Bailey Ulbricht founded Paper Airplanes in 2014 after tutoring some students she met in Syria. Ulbricht then got some people to volunteer and the organization has grown since then with the goal of giving refugees the opportunity to continue their education.

So far, Paper Airplanes has been able to work with 2,411 students. More than three-fourths of the students finish a minimum of one semester. The organization offers several different programs to increase their students’ likelihood of getting a better job and of being able to pursue more advanced education. Refugees from Syria can choose from a to participate in one or many of its programs. Programs include:

  • English Program – English speakers tutor a refugee in the English language over the internet

  • Women in Tech – women are taught coding

  • Citizen Journalism – students are taught how to write good articles and have them published

  • Turkish – Since many Syrians often find safe haven in Turkey, students can enroll in this program to help them adjust to their new environment

  • Youth Exchange – similar to the English Program, but with high school English tutors

  • Student Advising – volunteers help students with things like their resumes or scholarship applications

Tutoring with Paper Airplanes

This author had the opportunity to partner with Paper Planes for one month in July, working a few hours a week with a student. The student’s willingness to learn was inspiring. The orientation process thoroughly prepares the tutor for tutoring a refugee over Skype and the staff is extremely helpful and supportive. Tutoring a student in English when one has little to no experience can be daunting, but the staff at Paper Airplanes makes people feel very prepared while also allowing them to tailor the semester’s curriculum to the students’ needs.

It is inspiring to see people taking initiative and truly enjoying helping people to better their lives and the lives of their families. While hearing about how so many people go hungry and are affected by poverty, hearing what is solving those tragedies and healing people gives people hope for the future and makes them not only want to be a part of it but to bring it about. Hope truly does inspire people greater than sorrow and fear.

Looking Forward

The extreme poverty in Syria along with the crisis has caused many of its citizens to flee and seek shelter elsewhere. Amid all of the horrors, cultural shock and trauma, some individuals and organizations have risen up and answered their cry for help. Paper Airplanes gives refugees the tools that they need to succeed, educating and therefore empowering them for their future. Paper Airplanes understands that when you educate refugees, the impact goes far beyond individual students. It sets up the next generation to succeed.

Moriah Thomas
Photo: Flickr

Child Soldiers in Syria
Since 2011, war has ravaged Syria and drastically changed the lives of millions, especially for children. An estimated 2.6 million Syrian children now live in other nations as refugees. More than one million of the refugee children do not have access to education, and an additional 1.75 million children who remain in Syria also do not attend school. Millions of Syrian children live in extreme poverty, which drives them to become soldiers in an extremely dangerous conflict.

The Recruitment of Child Soldiers in Syria

The recruitment of children under the age of 18 by armed groups has been rising in Syria as the war continues. In 2016 alone, 851 children were recruited to be child soldiers in Syria. In that same year, 652 children died and 647 were maimed, and these numbers are rapidly rising. In January and February of 2018, 1,000 children were killed or injured in the Syrian conflict.

Some of these child soldiers have been kidnapped by armed groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS). Others are young Arabs or Muslims from Europe who have been convinced by radical groups like ISIS to leave their homes and join the fight against the Syrian government. Many, however, are children in Syria or in refugee camps in neighboring countries who have volunteered to become soldiers.

Syrian children often volunteer to become soldiers because of the dire situations in which their families live, situations caused by the war. By 2015, 80 percent of Syria’s population lived below the poverty line, and the situation has continued to worsen. With the unemployment rate in the country at 57.7 percent at the beginning of 2015, millions are struggling to survive. In addition, more than 90 percent of refugee families in Lebanon are at risk of food insecurity, and 80 percent in Jordan live in poverty.

For these families that are struggling to survive, the benefits that armed groups offer child soldiers in Syria can be life-saving. Some parents believe their only option is to send their children to fight for ISIS or ISIS-affiliated groups in return for financial subsidies. Other children join the Free Syrian Army (FSA), one of the main rebel groups fighting the Syrian government. The FSA provides its fighters with monthly benefits including salaries. Additionally, the FSA offers refugees in the Zaatari refugee camp precedence in receiving food aid and cash assistance that are crucial to their survival.

Providing a Solution

Alleviating Syrian poverty could be a crucial step in reducing the number of child soldiers in Syria. This could be done by providing Syrians with humanitarian aid, like helping them get food and homes and jobs. Children will be less vulnerable to recruitment by armed groups if they and their families are living in more stable situations.

The United States is mobilizing humanitarian aid to provide food, water, education and medical services to Syrian children and their families. International aid and the acceptance of refugees are also key. However, the “humanitarian needs inside Syria continue to outpace the international response.” Increased aid from the U.S. and other nations is key to relieving poverty in Syria and surrounding nations and reducing the number of children that are recruited to be soldiers.

– Laura Turner
Photo: Flickr

seven facts about the poverty crisis in SyriaSyria’s economy was once promising, and the nation even functioned as a resettlement country for refugees. However, the past seven years of war have disrupted economic activity and shaped Syria into one of the worst the humanitarian and economic catastrophes of the present time. As of 2018, the conflict is still continuous with no predicted end in sight. Below are seven facts about the poverty crisis in Syria and how the current war has contributed to the country’s extremely poor state.

Seven Facts About the Poverty Crisis in Syria

  1. The war isn’t over, and casualties are increasing on a daily basis.
    Since the Syrian Civil War in 2011, around half a million people have been killed. President Bashar al-Assad and government forces are carrying out chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin gas, in an attack against civilians. Right now, some of the worst violence is intensifying each day in Eastern Ghouta, located just 10 kilometers east of the capital Damascus. More than 600 residents are believed to have been killed and at least 2,000 injured since President Assad’s forces launched an air and ground invasion on February 18.
  1. Access to basic necessities in war-stricken areas is scarce.
    Civilians of the Eastern Ghouta area have limited or no access to food, medicine or sanitary supplies. Access to adequate health care is severely restricted for an estimated 350,000 civilians trapped in the area as well. Eastern Ghouta now has just one doctor per 3,600 people; 75 percent of Syria’s doctors and medical personnel have fled the country
  1. Syria has the biggest internally displaced population in the world.
    Since the civil war began, more than six million people have fled their homes but have not crossed Syria’s borders to find safety. Approximately 6,550 Syrians are displaced each day and live in camps, informal settlements or abandoned buildings along the Turkish border in Northern Syria.
  1. Kids are at great risk.
    Before the war, Syria had an actively strong education system, with almost 100 percent primary school enrollment and 70 percent secondary school enrollment. However, today about 1.75 million Syrian children and youth do not have access to an education. More than a third of schools in Syria have been damaged, destroyed or are being used as shelters by internally displaced people, and hundreds of thousands of teachers and professors have fled the country. Additionally, Syria is enduring the worst outbreak of child malnutrition yet, where an estimated 1.7 million children and pregnant or lactating women have been screened for acute malnutrition.
  1. There is an extreme lack of clean water and sanitation.
    Safe drinking water and basic sanitation services are scarce due to damaged pumps and pipelines, which increases vulnerability to epidemic diseases. In some areas with the greatest refugee populations, the water supply has hit a low of 22 liters per person per day, which is less than one-tenth of what the average American uses.
  1. Syria is lacking in natural resources.
    Although the country does have some oil, the country is not as abundant as it used to be when oil production peaked at 677,000 barrels per day in 2002. Since the growth of the Syrian conflict in 2011 to today, barrel production has declined to about 25,000 per day. Also, the increased armed conflict has impacted Syria as an agricultural nation. The ongoing war has caused major destruction to agricultural production, resulting in more than $16 billion of lost crop and livestock production and destroyed farming resources.
  1. The economy has deeply collapsed.
    As these seven facts about the poverty crisis in Syria indicate, years of conflict has destroyed the country’s economy. Syria’s economy has declined more than 70 percent since the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, and now the country has one of the world’s highest inflation rates. As of December 2017, the inflation rate in Syria was recorded at 43.2 percent and reached an all-time high of 121.29 percent in 2013. Additionally, over half the population is unemployed and 82.5 percent are living below the poverty line.

These seven facts about the poverty crisis in Syria allow for a better understanding of the harsh reality of the country’s current state. While it may be easy to become desensitized to the Syrian conflict, it is easy to help through donations or mobilization. Reputable charity organizations including UNHCR, UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam, the International Red Cross and Save the Children are all working to provide aid to the millions of Syrians affected by the war and poverty. Furthermore, taking action by emailing or writing to members of Congress and asking them to support aid to Syria is another way to help.

– Natalie Shaw

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Syria
In early June, Darayya, the rebel-held suburb of Damascus, received its first aid convoy in four years. While the delivery was invaluable to helping alleviate poverty in Syria. However, the U.N. was unable to send more than a month’s worth of medical supplies and food.

Reuters reports that the U.N. received permission for this exchange in March, but the Syrian government would not permit any more deliveries. They claimed that the rebels have plenty of supplies.

In addition, BBC reports that the population of Syria has dropped by at least 6.5 million in five years. Unfortunately, the war and poverty in Syria has led to this massive displacement and death. the BBC estimates that approximately 6 million people are refugees, and between 100-500 thousand are dead.

Those left behind face sieges, soaring food prices and decreased access to important institutions like hospitals or schools. Throughout the country, the civil war has left many.

At least 13.5 million of the 17.9 million people still in Syria desperately need assistance.

Another article from the BBC displays something even more harrowing. The names and dates of children killed in the war reel, one right after the other, across the screen.

The stories are short, similar and sobering: “Seta Naser al-Krad, a girl from Deraa, was shot and killed on 25 March 2011… Anas Muayad al-Wassa, a boy from Hama, was executed on 24 February 2012.” Underneath, the article states that over 19 hours would be required to read them all.

Currently, the population of Darayya—8,000 individuals—needs more food if they are going to outlast the siege. The government’s assurance that they have plenty does not match inhabitants’ reports. Constant bombardments and the long siege have destroyed a place once renowned for its grapes, apricots and olives.

Tales now range from kids growing ill from eating nothing but soup and salad to foraging for grass as rations dwindle.

One woman reports that her young grandson does not know what fruit is.

The U.N. has struggled to get aid to the rebels facing siege in Darayya. While they were able to gain permission for this convoy, the regime has been successful in blocking previous attempts.

Few rebels waited to receive the convoy. Syrians who did manage to receive aid were incredibly grateful.

Considering the obstacles, distributing medical supplies is a huge step for the U.N. and Darayya. The situation in Syria remains dire, but small successes such as this one make a large impact and will save hundreds of lives.

Jeanette Burke

Photo: Flickr