The U.S has spent a total of $6 billion in Syria as of 2016. The need for this assistance is extensive. USAID estimated that there are 13.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria. However, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria diverts foreign aid from those who need it. He uses it for political goals.

Every day, Russian aircraft drop tons of food in the government-controlled neighborhood of Deir Ezzor. This has saved the lives of countless Syrians in the city. However, in towns controlled by the opposition, countless Syrians starve. Through the use of systematic regulations, President Assad diverts foreign aid from those in need. He then uses foreign aid as a political tool to increase his authority. Syrian expert Joshua Landis said that the Syrian government needs to manipulate foreign aid because “food is loyalty.”

The U.N. admits that it can only work with a small number of partners approved by Assad. Assad’s wife and close friend run two of these partnerships. Other humanitarian relief contracts are awarded to individuals under sanction and members of the Syrian regime known for their brutality and oppression. This is because the Syrian relief effort is the most challenging and complex operation the U.N. has ever seen. This gives Assad more bargaining power. He diverts foreign aid only to areas he controls. He only allows the U.N. into the country without interference if they play by his rules.

Moreover, a Russian airliner company, Abakan Air, carries out the aid transportation. Two Russian nationals, Nikolai Ustimenko and his son Patel, own the company. Both have previously been barred from doing business with the U.N. on account of bribery. It is unclear to what extent they play in Assad’s distribution of foreign aid.

It wasn’t always this way. Initially, the U.N. and Syrian Red Cross delivered aid impartially to the Syrian people. However, as the world turned its attention elsewhere, the Syrian government began blocking aid deliveries to rebel-controlled towns.

Advocates of the foreign aid program point to the amount of good aid have done in the region. Even through the aid only affects certain areas, civilians in need are still being fed. They say it would be unfair to punish those civilians in desperate need by withdrawing aid.

The USAID and UNICEF have done well to give aid. However, it is not good enough. The fact that Assad diverts foreign aid must be addressed. People are starving in Syria and aid needs to be distributed equally.

Bruce Truax

Photo: Google

The Most Common Diseases in Syria
Many factors influence health, and one of the most overlooked is the environment. After living through a civil war for six years, Syrians have experienced a tremendous amount of violence. With this violence comes an increase in poverty and disease. For these reasons, common diseases in Syria are on the rise.

Not only do Syrians suffer from the stress that comes with living in a war-stricken country, but they also experience the scarcity of potable water, food and health care. The combination of this lack of resources and the grief the war’s victims deal with on a daily basis further complicates their health.

Non-communicable diseases are particularly prominent in Syrians. Non-communicable diseases are long-lasting and caused by genetics, the environment and lifestyle. In a survey based on different Syrian refugee households in Jordan, at least one resident in half the households suffered from a non-communicable disease.

Common diseases in Syria that are non-communicable include anemia, diabetes and hypertension. One study found that 48.4% of children under the age of five living in the Zaatari Syrian refugee camp suffered from anemia, as did 44.8% of women aged 15 to 49.

The key to treating these common diseases in Syria is maintaining a healthy diet and taking preventative medications. However, both of these strategies are difficult to come by for Syrians. Doctors and hospitals are often targets and victims of violence. With the destruction of hospitals, Syrians have far fewer places they can go to take care of their health.

Although some medical clinics remain functional, problems remain. Many lack supplies to accommodate the millions of people that need their help. About 60% of Syrians needing insulin to treat their diabetes are in danger due to a shortfall of the hormone.

It is difficult for Syrians to overcome their health issues due to everything that is happening in their country. That being said, others are taking the initiative to help. The World Health Organization has submitted requests to the Syrian government to provide desperately needed medical supplies.

Syrians are in a critical situation now, especially with their health at risk. However, with the proper resources and aid, life will improve for Syrians.

– Raven Rentas

Photo: Flickr

As Maya Angelou once said, “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” Unfortunately, millions of Syrians do not have that safe place Angelou talked about because of the ongoing civil war in their country. The question for the rest of is how to help people in the Syrian Arab Republic.

The statistics are grim: 400,000 Syrians have been killed in six years of war. Another 6.3 million people have been internally displaced and 5 million have fled Syria altogether, and all in need of assistance.

With limited resources, high rates of poverty and continuous violence putting their lives in severe danger, Syrians need all the help that they can get. There are many ways to help people in the Syrian Arab Republic–here are three very simple and effective ones:

  1. Take the time to study the Syrian civil war. In a world with what seems an infinite number of media outlets, determining which facts are real can be confusing. But for those who genuinely care about those who have lost their homes, education is key.
  2. After learning about the crisis, take the opportunity to educate others. One advocate fighting for Syrians’ safety can transform into a group of advocates simply by informing people. It is very easy to get individuals involved through the influence of social media. Raising awareness about the injustices in Syria leads to more people who want to help and make a difference.
  3. Reach out to local congressional leaders. At The Borgen Project, political involvement is always encouraged so that one can have a say on the issues that matter the most to them. Be the voice for those who don’t have one.

Humanity may suffer from some flaws, but compassion and empathy remain common attributes. Many individuals sincerely want to help those less fortunate. Using the tips from this article, it is no longer a question as to how to help people in the Syrian Arab Republic but rather a matter of assuming responsibility and doing so. Syrians do not need superheroes to save them; they simply need people that care.

Raven Rentas

Photo: Flickr

Why is Syria Poor
In 2007, 35 percent of Syrians lived at or below the international poverty line. As of 2017, that number lies above 80 percent. Why is Syria poor so suddenly? A large reason for this rise is the Syrian civil war, which started in 2011 sparked by pro-democracy protests and rebel forces that formed to fight the government forces led by Syria’s president. Discussed are there reasons for the rapid acceleration of poverty in Syria.

Top 6 Explanations for Syrian Poverty

  1. Inflation: Currency inflation in Syria was at 51.1 percent in August 2016 after reaching an all-time high of 121.29 percent in August 2014. When the Syrian government began running out of money due to the high cost of war, it printed more and more money to pay their debt. When asking, “Why is Syria poor?” inflation is an inevitable answer. It makes cash lose much of its value, and, as a result, millions of people in Syria have lost their life savings. Businesses have had to close because it is impossible to trade with foreign markets, and food prices have become unaffordable. This means less overall economic security for the Syrian people.
  2. Healthcare: The civil war has decimated healthcare infrastructure in Syria over the past six years. In 2016 alone there were almost 200 attacks on healthcare providers, and forces on both sides have prevented citizens from accessing healthcare as a war tactic. Because of this, diseases such as typhoid, tuberculosis and cholera are becoming endemic again in Syria. Poverty is inextricably tied to healthcare access, and, when a country’s public health system begins to fail, it is much more difficult for people to escape poverty.
  3. Unemployment: Largely due to inflation, many Syrian businesses and industries have closed. Over 50 percent of the labor force is currently unemployed. This creates massive economic insecurity for millions of Syrians Without money, most are unable to access basic human needs such as food, water and shelter. Why is Syria poor? A large reason is a lack of employment opportunities.
  4. Infrastructure: Much of Syria’s basic infrastructure has been lost because of the war. According to the United Nations Development Program, “the supply of electricity and water [in Syria] is unpredictable and major roads are impassable due to destruction or fighting…All of this has aggravated the socio-economic plight of the population.” This lack of infrastructure in Syria greatly increases the vulnerability of the poor.
  5. Education: Fifty percent of Syrian children no longer attend school, and almost half have lost up to three years of schooling. In addition, many school buildings have been destroyed. Education is one of the surest ways out of poverty, so without reliable access to education, many Syrian children are becoming a “lost generation” trapped in a cycle of poverty.
  6. Fleeing Refugees: There are nearly five million Syrians officially registered as refugees. This hurts Syria’s economy as labor flows out of the country, which in turn hurts people in Syria who are already impoverished. The unwillingness of many countries to welcome Syrian refugees further hurts people who are still in Syria because it means refugees are unable to send money to their families.

While it can be easy to get swept up in the ugliness of war, it is important to remember the human stories underneath it and recognize that the answers to the question “why is Syria poor?” present solutions. Organizations such as the UNDP currently have boots on the ground in Syria and are working to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality. In 201,6 UNDP implemented 199 local projects that helped more than 2.5 million Syrians. The World Food Programme provides emergency food assistance to 4.5 million people each month. One person can make a difference and help fight poverty in Syria, simply by calling his or her representatives and encouraging them to support legislation that accepts more refugees or provides more funding for international aid. All of these things are steps towards a less poor Syria. And so perhaps the true question is not “why is Syria poor?” but “how can I help?”

Adesuwa Agbonile

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Refugees in the Czech Republic
Although the current refugee crisis is the worst humanitarian crisis since WWII, the uptick of Syrian refugees coming into Europe in 2015 has been continuously met with hostility from post-communist Central European countries, such as the Czech Republic. Discussed below are the leading facts about refugees in the Czech Republic and their implications.

10 Key Facts about Refugees in the Czech Republic

  1. The Czech President, Miloš Zeman,  opposes the quota system (which is based on a country’s population and wealth) proposed by the EU but has not yet followed Slovakia and Hungary in challenging the courts. Rather than meeting the quota to take in about 2,600 refugees, Czech leaders are now discussing broader security steps.
  2. The Czech Republic, along with Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have the most opposition towards the quotas set by the EU.
  3. Before the Syrian refugee crisis, there was only one detention center located in Bělá-Jezová. There are now three; the center located in Bělá-Jezová has been dedicated to vulnerable migrants, such as families with women and children.
  4. Under the 2015 EU relocation quota, the Czech Republic has to accept around 4,300 people seeking asylum, which is about 410 refugees per one million of its population.
  5. In 2015, 3,644 people made up the population of refugees in the Czech Republic.
  6. In 2016, 1,475 people applied for internal protection. The government granted asylum to 148 applicants and subsidiary protection for 302 people.
  7. President Zeman has stated, “Our country simply cannot afford to risk terrorist attacks like what occurred in France and Germany. By accepting migrants we would create fertile ground for barbaric attacks,” according to his spokesman Jiri Ovcacek.
  8. The Czech Republic accepted 12 refugees and does not plan to take in anymore according to Interior Minister Milan Choyanec. The EU may take action against the Czech Republic in September if they continue to deny refugees.
  9. Since May 2016, there has been no offer of resettlement by the Czechs for any refugee within the EU program.
  10. President Zeman has stated that all refugees must prove that they are politically persecuted if they seek asylum and “the fact itself that they come from a country in which fighting is underway is no reason for being granted it.”

Although these facts are disheartening, the Czech Republic maintains its embassy in Damascus, Syria. The Czech Republic will also continue to provide humanitarian aid to Syria, as well as provide help for refugees in Syria, Lebanon and Turkey.

Stefanie Podosek

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Saudi Arabia
The Syrian refugee crisis has become the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. Millions of people have been forced to make new homes in foreign countries. These countries often struggle to absorb the number of refugees needing homes. Some countries, such as Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, are opposed to opening their doors to people seeking refuge altogether. This article provides 10 facts about refugees in Saudi Arabia and a few problems they have experienced during their transition process.

10 Important Facts About Refugees in Saudi Arabia

  1. Refugees in Saudi Arabia have had a difficult time initially entering the country. Saudi Arabia has faced a series of criticisms for refusing to open their doors to these refugees.
  2. Social media, the news and human rights reports have taken turns in shaming Saudi Arabia for its refusal. Saudi Arabia denies these criticisms, saying that they have given residency to 100,000 people during the crisis.
  3. The country is home to a tent city, Mina, spanning 20 square kilometers and holding about 100,000 tents. Refugees in Saudi Arabia have not been permitted to stay in these tents because they hold religious significance as a stop on the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Each tent costs between $500 and $3,500.
  4. The Mina tent city has not been opened to people seeking refuge in Saudi Arabia because their government claims that this is not what such people want. The government has also voted against giving the displaced people the official designation of “refugee.”
  5. Due to increased criticism, in 2016 Saudi Arabia provided $75 million to aid refugees. However, with the number of people seeking refuge in Saudi Arabia continuously growing, the country continues to dismiss their status and refrains from putting them in refugee camps.
  6. Since Saudi Arabia is not a signatory to the U.N. Convention on Refugees, there is some discrepancy over the exact number of refugees in Saudi Arabia.
  7. The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says there are between 100,000 and 500,000 refugees in the country, but some disagree that this number is not representative enough of the Saudi population of 31 million.
  8. A significant reason for Saudi Arabia closing its doors to people seeking refuge has to do with the Islamic State and Syrian Sunni Muslims. A majority of the refugees fleeing to Saudi Arabia are from Sunni areas of Syria–areas that play host to the Islamic State. Saudi Arabian forces have bombed these regions and want to know if the refugees are escaping ISIS or the bombings.
  9. The overarching reason that people seeking refuge in Saudi Arabia are being denied status or even shut out of the country has to do with issues of national security more than threats to demographic stability.
  10. The foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council have asked Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf countries also halting entry to refugees to find a solution to the crisis.

The Syrian refugee crisis continues to affect a large percentage of our world. The Syrians can no longer live in safety within their country, and so they seek safer lands. But the sheer number of refugees creates trouble for host countries trying to integrate refugees into society. This problem warrants a need for significant humanitarian aid and cooperation.

Katelynn Kenworthy

Photo: Flickr

The Geneva Convention declared in 1949 that targeting healthcare workers and hospitals is a violation of international humanitarian law. Yet in the past six years of conflict, more than 800 Syrian healthcare workers have been killed. More than half were due to bombings or shelling; at least 160 of these deaths were due to either torture or execution. The Syrian government and its allied forces are held responsible for 92 percent of these healthcare worker killings.

An analysis of attacks on healthcare facilities indicates that certain facilities are targeted to cut off access to care and potentially force civilian displacement. Repeated attacks on facilities are noted, with one specialty hospital built in a cave bombed six times already in 2017 and 33 times in the past three years. In 2016, there were almost 200 reported attacks on healthcare facilities.

Not only are healthcare workers in danger, but the attacks on healthcare facilities and the overall destruction due to conflict leaves many facilities without electricity, water or necessary equipment to treat and diagnose patients. In 2016, 95 percent of the doctors who had once worked in Aleppo, formerly the most populous city in Syria, had fled. Current estimates are that only 42 percent of the Syrian population lives in an area with a sufficient proportion of healthcare workers, while almost one-third live in an area where there are no healthcare workers at all.

Conflicts between Syrian healthcare workers and the government have been ongoing since 2011, when healthcare workers were arrested during protests. In 2012, the Syrian government declared that it was a crime to provide medical care to any persons injured in anti-government protests. Current targeting patterns indicates that the Syrian government views any facilities in opposition-controlled areas as terrorist affiliates and therefore legitimate targets.

Because of the low number of Syrian healthcare workers and the dangers they face, many healthcare professionals are trying to find innovative ways to help from outside of the country. A network of underground hospitals has been established, and cameras are being installed in facilities so that doctors can monitor patients and provide consultations remotely. Phone lights are used in underground hospitals that do not have access to electricity.

These solutions are beneficial, but until there is an end to the violence, Syrian healthcare workers are likely to continue to be targeted and care for victims of the conflict will suffer.

Nicole Toomey

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Saudi Arabia and War in Syria
The ongoing war in Syria has left many of its citizens desperate for a safe place to live. In response, government officials in Saudi Arabia have allowed the entry of Syrian refugees. However, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is considered a Gulf state and thus not part of the 1951 United Nation Refugee Convention. It is, therefore, entirely up to state officials to determine if and how many refugees should be allowed entrance into the state.

Refugees in Saudi Arabia are required to possess a passport and a visa prior to entry. Moreover, the state’s interactions in the Syrian war coupled with its unwillingness to let in more Syrian refugees as compared to other Gulf states has made it subject to much criticism.

Syrian scholar Ali Al-Ahmed has inferred that one of the reasons why officials are cautious of allowing the entry of refugees in Saudi Arabia is the notion that Syrians present a major “cultural and political risk.” In other words, they fear that allowing in too many Syrians at once would constitute a major threat to security.

Currently, there are roughly 895,000 Syrian refugees in Saudi Arabia. Some are students and a large amount are adults who work full-time within the Arab state. Yet it has been predicted that the kingdom will never allow access to more than one million Syrian refugees at a given time.

According to Abdulla Al-Rabeeah, chief of the King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aid (KSRelief), more effort has been put forth towards assisting individuals who are in desperate need of relief. Al-Rabeeah stated that KSRelief has “carried out 127 projects in Yemen providing relief and humanitarian aid, as well as shelter, in addition to agricultural and water programs.” Furthermore, Al-Rabeeah reported that Saudi Arabia has allocated a total of $700 million in humanitarian aid and relief to 37 countries, including Syria.

Lael Pierce

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Lebanon
Poverty in Lebanon is caused by various factors. Since the start of the Syrian crisis in 2011, Lebanon has seen an influx of refugees, resulting in an increase in poverty, something that has been an issue for quite some time. According to the Nations Encyclopedia, the income gap between social classes has increased over the last 10 years. Both the upper and middle class have seen an increase in their income since 1991, but the rest of the country is not earning much money at all as the income of many has dropped below the poverty line.

OXFAM International, a nonprofit that fights poverty, addresses how the issue of poverty is multidimensional. OXFAM International works to address both the cause and impact of poverty in Lebanon, as well as in over 90 other countries. According to its website, the number of people living under the poverty line in Lebanon has increased by 66 percent since 2011. The World Bank discusses goals for economic improvement in Lebanon, including the creation of new jobs and the installment of an improved education system in order to spark an interest in business related jobs in the country’s youth.

Despite Lebanon’s continued economic struggles and the governmental issues behind them, there is still hope for improving poverty in Lebanon. According to data from the World Bank,  between 1992 and 2014 Lebanon’s GDP grew by an average of 4.4 percent, varying from year to year. The data also addressed the creation of new jobs between 2004 and 2009, when varying amounts of growth was seen, particularly in the trade, service and construction industry. According to the World Bank, 15 percent of the population emigrated from Lebanon in 2010, which is a factor in the economic improvement that the country has seen. This emigration increased employment opportunities and therefore sparked economic growth in the country as a whole.

Helen Barker

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About United Kingdom Refugees
In response to the Syrian refugee crisis, the United Kingdom initially had a policy of offering a generous amount of humanitarian aid to Syria’s neighbors instead of accepting Syrian refugees in the U.K. The logic behind this policy is that it is safer for refugees to remain where they are instead of making dangerous trips across Europe. Here are 10 facts about United Kingdom refugees.

10 Facts About United Kingdom Refugees From Syria

  1. The U.K. government said in 2016 that it had contributed £1.1 billion since 2012 on food, tents and other humanitarian aid to Syria.
  2. The Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Programme (VPRP) was established in 2014 to provide a route for chosen Syrian refugees to go to the U.K.
  3. Under the Syrian VPRP, the U.K. plans to resettle as many as 20,000 refugees by the end of the current Parliament.
  4. The U.K. committed to resettling approximately 3,000 vulnerable children currently in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as 350 unaccompanied children already in Europe. This number includes Syrian nationals.
  5. When first implemented, the VPRP gave priority to refugees that were elderly, disabled or victims of sexual violence or torture. No cap was set on the number, but several hundred refugees are expected in the U.K. in the next three years.
  6. In order to help refugees integrate into British society, a community sponsorship program was started in July 2016.
  7. Refugees resettled in the U.K. are provided with five years Humanitarian Protection status, along with permission to work and access public funds. By September 2016, under the VPRP, 4,414 people had been given Humanitarian Protection status.
  8. The U.K. will provide resettlement for approximately 3,000 vulnerable children and their families from conflict situations in the Middle East and North Africa.
  9. Section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016 requires the government to relocate and support an unspecified number of unaccompanied refugee children currently in Europe. As of Feb. 8, 2017, it was announced that the number of unaccompanied children under section 67 will be capped at 350.
  10. Syrians can claim asylum once they arrive in the UK. In 2016, Syrian nationals requesting asylum numbered 2,102. At least 86 percent of Syrian asylum applications were granted in 2016 — more than any other nationality.

These 10 facts about United Kingdom refugees demonstrates that the country has one of the best refugee policies. Additionally, the U.K. is the second-largest donor to the Syrian refugee crisis with a commitment of £2.3 billion.

Mary Barringer

Photo: Flickr