Syria has been engaged in a civil war ever since 2011.  As different rebel groups continue to clash against the authoritative and repressive regime of President Bashar al-Assad, over 130,000 people have died.  Furthermore, over 9.3 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, 6.5 million Syrians have been internally displaced from their homes while an additional 2.3 million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries.

Relief reception areas and displacement camps are set up inside Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, though refugees are also fleeing to Lebanon and Egypt.  It is clear that the magnitude of this crisis is beyond the financial capacity of Syria’s neighbors.  So how is the rest of the international community contributing?

The United States government has been the single largest contributor of humanitarian aid, providing more than $1.3 billion to Syria and its neighbors.  The European Union has also pledged more than $800 million while the U.K., Germany and Kuwait comprise the remaining top five donors contributing $670 million, $415 million and $333 million respectively.

Aid is distributed through dozens of different implementing channels with the largest coordinator of aid being the United Nations through its Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.  The UN has 15 different organizations on the ground in Syria including World Health Organization, World Food Program, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).  There are also 18 registered international NGO’s including Action Against Hunger, Danish Refugee Council, Oxfam and SOS international.

These organizations provide food to almost 3.4 million people in the form of rations and flour delivered to households and bakeries.  Drinking water, sanitation services and shelter materials are also being distributed to refugee camps throughout the region.  Relief programs are furthermore providing medical supplies and emergency and basic health care in attempt to counter the loss caused by damaged hospitals and medical facilities.  The health sector of the relief effort has provided about 5.9 million people with health care and medical supplies.

The UN Syrian Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan requested $1.4 billion in 2013.  As a result, nations were able to contribute approximately 74% of the requested amount.  Moreover, in December of 2013, the UN announced that aid agencies needed nearly $13 billion for humanitarian relief operations in 2014.  This includes $6.5 billion just for the Syrian conflict, $2.3 billion of which will go to aid people within Syria while the remaining $4.2 billion will be allocated for Syria’s five neighboring countries.

As the world powers continue to search for diplomatic solutions to end the civil war, the humanitarian crisis will undoubtedly extend well beyond the duration of the conflict.

Sunny Bhatt

Sources: Huffington Post, USAID, UNOCHA, Reuters
Photo: BBC

CNN reports that the U.S. only accepted 30,000 Syrian refugees this fiscal year. Over the past three years, civil war has claimed the lives of 50,000 Syrians and produced 2.3 million refugees, half of them children.  The United Nations High Commission for Refugees wants to settle 30,000 of these people this year.

Yet, in the past, the United States has led the world in resettlement and humanitarian efforts.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin said that the United States’ overly broad immigration bars are preventing Syrian refugees from taking asylum here — approximately 135,000 refugees have applied for asylum in the U.S.

The small nations surrounding Syria have welcomed refugees. Lebanon and Jordan began accepting refugees early on with individual families taking friends, family members and even strangers into their homes. Refugee camps were later built to house Syrians.

Lebanon has taken in more than 860,000 asylum seekers, more than 20% of its entire population. The town of Arsal, with a population of only 35,000, had taken in 19,000 refugees when it received an additional 20,000 in November.

Some 700,000 Syrian refugees are residing in Turkey. While 200,000 of these are being housed in 21 refugee camps, the remainder have found shelter in towns and cities.

While these countries have been generous, they do not have the space or resources to house this number of refugees and are beginning to see a rise in social and economic tensions. Schools and hospitals are running out of space and incomes have been dropping as residents compete for work.

The U.S. Department of State and USAID have been major sources of funding for humanitarian programs, providing basic necessities such as food, water, tents and medical supplies.

The United States has provided $300 million to Jordan since 2012. It has helped the country to expand its social services to be able to house Syrian refugees, for example 5 schools were built and 62 others were expanded.

However the U.S. is still lagging behind other countries in resettlement. Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war only 90 Syrians have found asylum in the United States. In contrast, Sweden has accepted 14,700 refugees and Germany has accepted 18,000.

Both Senator Dick Durbin and Senator Lindsay Graham are pushing for immigration reform that will allow for the acceptance of more Syrian refugees into the U.S.

– Elizabeth Brown

Sources: CNN, U.S. Department of State, U.S. News, Think Progress
Photo: UN News Centre

The Damascus district of Moadamiyeh has been the center of much scrutiny after the chemical weapons attack in August that left hundreds injured and dead throughout Syria. Reports of starvation and disease after this attack forced approximately 5,000 Syrians to evacuate the town of Moadamiyeh and stay in temporary shelters since the August attack. Moadamiyeh was under siege by the Assad regime for several months, as Syrian troops stopped food and supplies from entering in an attempt to weaken the rebel fighters.

The religious restrictions by the Islamic law decreeing a ban on eating cats and dogs was lifted by Muslim clerics for residents of neighborhoods under siege, including Moadamiyeh. Poor families were forced to live off of tree leaves, rotting animal carcasses, and stray pets. With strict regime members blocking all entry roads with snipers and tanks, malnutrition was inevitable for the residents. Mothers with limited food access would give whatever they could find to their children and in doing so were unable to produce milk for their babies. Several cases of child deaths have been reported due to acute malnutrition. Children who were checked into clinics were found to have low blood pressure, dizziness and very low white blood cell amounts.

After finally reaching a rare agreement with authorities, the Syrian Red Crescent and International Committee of the Red Cross were able to gradually evacuate the residents of Moadimayeh. Children, women, and the elderly were the first to evacuate. Several of the residents left in tears while young children clutched the food distributed by aid workers. Men were forced to stay in separate lines while they were questioned about their involvement in the war. Thousands of innocent lives have been spared in Moadamiyeh, but plenty of war-torn towns are still under siege and face heavy bombardment while thousands of civilians wait in silence.

– Maybelline Martez

Sources: BBC, UNHCR, The Telegraph
Photo: Yalla Souriya

The crisis in Syria has garnered international attention, but arguably little intervening military action; the majority of concerned nations are opting for relief aid for innocent people. Refugees have been tended to by neighboring countries and various international aid givers. In September 2013, the UN set aside $50 million in support of aid groups operating on the ground in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan.

TheHuffington Post reports that the dollar amount is the most the UN has ever allocated for one crisis. Now, UK teachers are partnering with those in Syria and neighboring countries to address the many displaced children to help ensure the crisis doesn’t rob them of an education.

The official numbers of those displaced by the Syrian civil war are somewhat skewed. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) places the number at 600,000, arguably a conservative estimate. Inside Syria, that number may be 5 million, according to Paris-based Syrian political observer Salam Kawakibi.

Child refugees are especially vulnerable and at risk for, “…exploitation including early marriage, domestic violence and child labor, despite efforts to keep them in school, the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said…” A Voice of Americareport says that 2.1 million children have crossed borders into surrounding nations, many lacking key family connections. Living in host communities outside Syria, children are very at risk for exploitation and are even joining Syrian rebels to fight; they also have less access to education.

In Jordan alone, only 80,000 of 200,000 refugee children consistently go to school.  UNICEF is giving $45 to refugee families in Jordan to keep children in school. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the European Union (EU) have also combined forces for a 4.3 million Euro effort to help Jordanian schools and teachers deal with the Syrian influx, helping make education possible for locals and refugees.

The UK has just announced direct educational aid through school partnerships with Jordanian and Lebanese schools serving Syrian refugees with the Connecting Classrooms program. UK International Development Secretary Justine Greening said the goal was to prevent a lost generation of Syrian children.

Director Education and Society at the British Council Dr. Jo Beall says the partnerships will give British citizens a role in assuaging the crisis for kids and teachers by offering them a better understanding of the issues and the opportunity to connect with Syrian students. An Evening Express report claims that Skype and exchanging letters will help make those connections.

The UK announcement comes on the heels of the urging of Malala Yousafzai for world leaders to educate Syrian child refugees. Malala and UN education envoy Gordon Brown received $1 million from Avaaz in September 2013 to draw more international attention to this specific issue. Brown, a former British Prime Minister, echoes the sentiment of Secretary Greening in not wanting Syrian refugee children to become lost in the face of civil war.

David Smith

Sources: Huffington Post, Syrian Refugees, Voice of America, UNESCO, UK Government, Evening Express, Reuters, NPR

Children, the people who have no voice amidst the conflict in a war-torn Syria, are often impacted harder by the war than anyone else. They are left to the mercies of adults that make decisions for them and their country.

The UN Refugee Agency reports that of 2 million registered refugees, half are children. Many of these children now reside in crowded refugee camps, deprived of the opportunity for advancement, and uncertain of when they will be able to return home.

Unless Syria’s children are helped, the country will never be able to fully recover from the war .

How the Syrian crisis is impacting children:

1.   Perhaps the worst consequence of the Syrian civil war is that it is depriving many children of education. Not only does this hurt children now, it also robs them of a future. They are not being equipped to build professional lives. Without educated children, Syria’s future is uncertain. Children will not be prepared to sustain the country when they reach adulthood. This will lead to indefinite instability in Syria.

For most families, returning to Syria to enroll their children in school is not an option. Save the Children reports that 3,900 Syrian schools have been destroyed since the start of the war. Syria is also still a land of widespread violence and insecurity. This forces Syrian refugees to depend on foreign schooling, if they are to receive any education at all.

Lebanon and Jordan, the countries that have the most Syrian refugees, are struggling to accommodate Syrian children in their schools. Both countries are now home to thousands of Syrian children, and lack the resources necessary to provide quality education for all. It is doubtful if and when many Syrian children will be able to resume their academic work.

2.   Instances of child labor increase as enrollment in schools decreases. UNICEF estimates that there are 30,000 refugee child laborers in Jordan alone.

Although there are laws prohibiting child labor, many refugee children end up working out of necessity. Refugee parents, many unemployed or working menial jobs, struggle to support their families with their own meager income. They feel they have no choice but to make their children work in order to make ends meet. Many of these child laborers hold dangerous construction jobs or work with pesticides on farms.

UNICEF provides cash grants to refugee families who remove their children from child labor and enroll them in schools. However, the grants alone, which do not exceed $45 per month, are not enough to put an end to the child labor problem.

3.   Aside from the economic and educational impact, children are also subjected to the same physical and emotional distress of war as adults. Although millions have taken refuge in foreign countries with their families, many are stuck in Syria. The death toll of the civil war exceeds 100,000. Reuters reports that 7,000 of these deaths have been children.

Even if the Syrian crisis were to end today, the country would have a long road to recovery. Helping the children is a vital first step in any post-war recovery. The well-being of the country will one day rest in the hands of its children. It is imperative that the international community step up and provide more substantial aid to Syria’s children.

– Matt Berg

Sources: UNHCR, Voa News, Huffington Post, Reuters
Photo: The Guardian

The Syrian Civil War has created a food crisis in Syria. According to the United Nations, nearly “four million Syrians, a fifth of the population, are unable to produce or buy enough food, and farmers are short of the seed and fertilizers they need to plant their crop.”

The food shortage in Syria is a result of “massive population displacement, disruption of agricultural production, unemployment, economic sanctions and high food and fuel prices.” Overall, Syria’s poultry production has decreased by 50 percent and its wheat production is down 40 percent. As a result, food prices have spiked dramatically, with the average monthly price of wheat flour more than doubling between May of 2011 and May of 2013.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has requested $41.7 million to assist 768,000 people in Syria. So far, the agency has only $3.3 million of the requested funds. The Food and Agriculture Organization is working to assist those who are internally displaced in Syria as well as providing aid to the 1.6 million Syrians who have sought refuge from the conflict in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.

In addition to creating a food shortage throughout the nation, the Syrian Civil War has created problems in maintaining health standards for both humans and animals. Before the food crisis, “9.3 percent of children suffer[ed] from wasting and 23 percent of them stunted.” It is likely that these rates have increased since the onset of the food crisis. Additionally, child vaccination coverage has decreased from 95 percent in 2009 to 80 percent in 2012, creating concerns about spread of diseases. Likewise, “there are practically no routine drugs or vaccines for animals and no vets to administer them,” creating the potential for diseases being transmitted among livestock and intensifying the food crisis.

Jordan Kline

Sources: The Guardian, Reuters

3 Big Ways UNICEF Is Helping Syrian Children_opt

Out of the 2.1 million residents of Homs, 600,000 have been displaced by the Syrian conflict. This number, roughly 28%, is expected to increase as the violence continues. To help the people in need UNICEF has responded to the need of children in Syria in three big ways.

3. Establishing Remedial Classes in Neighborhood Shelters
UNICEF has established makeshift classrooms in housing complexes around the Al Wa’ar neighborhood which is where many displaced families have taken shelter. According to UNICEF, 20% of schools in Syria have been destroyed completely, damaged, or are being used to shelter internally displaced people. This has left many children without education for the past two years.

2. Vaccinating Children Against Common Diseases 
UNICEF has also begun a vaccination campaign to prevent outbreak of common diseases such as measles, rubella, mumps and polio. This campaign is being enacted through schools and displaced family shelters and is predicted to help 2.5 million children.

1. Upgrading Water Systems 
As summer rolls into the Middle East, clean water and up-to-date water treatment facilities become a pressing necessity. In the aftermath of the conflict, many neighborhoods are littered with debris and garbage which pose a threat to children in Syria. UNICEF is supporting  an upgrade of sanitation and water treatment facilities that will aid people as the extreme heat of summer arrives.

The Syrian civil war began on March 15, 2011 and has since left roughly 6 million Syrians in need of aid and 4 million people internally displaced. Due to these high numbers, many observers are concerned that, if the war drags on, this current generation of young people will become a lost generation.

-Pete Grapentien

Source UN News