Hunger in Syria
After six years of continuous conflict and civil war, hunger in Syria has become a major crisis. Providing the necessary food aid for Syrians has become increasingly difficult as the danger escalates and the number of refugees multiplies.

Over 11 million Syrians have fled their homes to other Syrian cities or neighboring countries in search of safety. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are over 4.8 million registered Syrian refugees. As the conflict continues, the issue of hunger in Syria intensifies. Despite these difficulties, international organizations are doing everything they can to help Syrians in need. Here are five facts about the triumphs and challenges of hunger in Syria:

  1. According to the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization, 8.7 million people in Syria are food insecure.
    Food insecurity refers to the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient amount of affordable and nutritious food. Soaring food prices have only exacerbated the situation. Prices for bread, the cornerstone of the Syrian diet, have increased by more than 100% since 2014.
  2. The ShareTheMeal app has helped feed nearly 25,000 Syrians over the past year.
    The ShareTheMeal app allows participants to donate just $0.50 in order to feed a child for an entire day. Since November 2015, ShareTheMeal has provided Syrian refugee children and mothers with food support for an entire year.
  3. Food production in Syria has dropped by 40% since 2010.
    Nearly half of Syria’s population lives in rural regions. The war has destroyed agricultural infrastructure and irrigation systems, which has, in turn, decreased production. Wheat, in particular, has suffered dramatically from both the conflict and low rainfall.
  4. The World Food Program (WFP) is providing 240,000 Syrian children with nutrient supplements to prevent malnutrition.
    Child malnutrition can lead to stunting, disease and even death. In order to prevent undernutrition, WFP provides ready-to-eat, specialized nutritional products to thousands of Syrian children under the age of 5.
  5. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) has distributed food parcels to over 2.5 million people.
    SARC is one of the only organizations working in the entirety of Syria to provide humanitarian aid. Every month, SARC distributes food parcels and health care items to over three million people in need.

Although it will take $86.5 million this year to assist the nearly three million people in need who remain in the country, hunger in Syria can be diminished. WFP, UNHCR and their partners have taken great strides to accomplish this goal. With an increase in the International Affairs budget, the U.S. can also help save the lives of millions of Syrians suffering from hunger.

Kristyn Rohrer

Photo: Flickr

Life-saving technologies
To say that war has evolved is an understatement. The mobilization of large-scale armies in two-sided conflicts is no longer an appropriate definition of modern warfare. For example, consider the various ongoing wars in the Middle East; in many regions, ISIS is fighting against a combination of tribal groups, government forces and civilian militias.

The changing landscape of war, along with changes in war technology, leaves one thing clear: war is no longer country versus country, but rather a scramble for power in volatile regions. However, it is not just the technologies designed to kill that have evolved; life-saving technologies have also made incredible leaps in development.

Evolution of Warfare

As the parameters of war continue to change, so must foreign aid intended to help people caught in armed conflict. Most U.S. foreign aid falls under the “150 account,” a function of the federal budget that contains funding for all international activities. Though function 150 comprises just one percent of the federal budget, it’s responsible for providing all military assistance to allies and aiding in international peacekeeping efforts.

On-going conflicts like those in Syria, Afghanistan and Iran place a heavy strain on U.S. assistance, as the government struggles to provide cost-effective and efficient methods of assistance.

In 2014, president Obama asked Congress to fund a program in which American military personnel would teach Syrian and Jordanian rebels navigation, marksmanship and other skills, in the hopes that they would return to Syria and fight. They recruited about 15,000 men to train in Jordanian territory. One year later, U.S. defense officials admitted that just four or five recruits from the program actually returned to fight.

Meanwhile, the crisis in Syria continues to worsen. Recent estimates place the death toll in Syria at over 200,000 which includes adult civilians and children. About 28,000 deaths can be attributed to shootings and mass killings; often random events that happen with no prior warning.

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, chairman of the U.N. panel investigating human rights abuses in Syria, explains how “everyday decisions- whether to visit a neighbor, to go out and buy bread- have become, potentially, decisions about life and death.”

Maybe it’s time to rethink how the government can best support civilians and the Syrian National Coalition. Train and equip programs like that of 2014 seem to be a process of trial and error, as it takes time to access their efficacy and long-term sustainability.

Life-saving Technologies

Still, there are small steps the Department of Defense can take to save Syrian lives without sending in weapons or personnel. Two life-saving technologies, the combat tourniquet and quick-clot, could drastically reduce the number of deaths associated with shootings and mass killings as well as organized fighting between the National Coalition and Assad’s forces.

The combat application tourniquet (CAT) is a 21st take on the conventional tourniquet and one of the most important life-saving technologies. Generally speaking, tourniquet use in combat declined after World War II, when widespread misuse led to excessive blood loss and amputation. In most cases, tourniquets were either too tight or too loose, rendering them useless and inefficient.

In the following decades, field medics and soldiers barely used tourniquets in the Vietnam and Korean wars. Unlike its traditional predecessor, the CAT is incredibly easy to use and much more effective. A recent study by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) found a 78% success rate when compared to alternative methods for stopping a bleeding.

The CAT’s Out of the Bag

Designed to be used with one hand, the CAT features an adhesive band and friction-adapting buckle to fit anything from an arm to thigh. It also has a free-moving internal band that provides the circumferential pressure necessary for stopping blood flow.

The major difference between the CAT and the traditional tourniquet is that a traditional tourniquet needs to be tied. The CAT’s design makes it possible for a wounded individual to use the device on him or herself, without having to wait for a medic (although it’s still possible for one person to use the CAT on another).

The same study by the IDF claims that the CAT is easy to use and is relatively painless compared to other methods. Its one-handed and foolproof design makes it an ideal technology for war-torn regions where the majority of casualties are related to bullet wounds and blood loss. The U.S. military-issued CAT is priced at about $30.

Clots Begone

Combat Gauze, colloquially termed “QuikClot” is another one of the life-saving technologies at a lower cost (about $8-$40 per packet, depending on the retailer). QuikClot is a hemostatic agent, which means it stops blood loss by helping the blood rapidly clot. Kaolin, the primary clotting agent, works on contact with blood by initiating factor XII, which then transforms into Factor XIIa. XIIa is the molecular cascade responsible for clotting.

The physical gauze conforms to the wound and immediately triggers this process. The 2013 Journal of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists features a study that found QuikClot effectively stopped hemorrhaging — without complications — 79% of the times it was used by the Israeli Defense forces in Gaza.

The journal also features data to show that QuikClot allowed more effective fluid resuscitation (blood transfusions) and better helped the clot withstand movement compared to other methods.

Packaged in small pouches, QuikClot can be distributed in mass quantities and used without instructions besides those printed on the back of the pouch.

Foreign aid plays a critical role in the United States’ efforts to help people in war-torn regions. As such, it is imperative for aid packages to be cost-effective and fast-acting.

The Combat Application Tourniquet and QuikClot are two life-saving technologies suited to meet the medical needs of many civilians and soldiers affected by armed conflict, especially those in Syria, where thousands of men, women and children continue to die because of blood loss.

Jessica Levitan

Photo: Officer Survival

A good way to learn about an aid organization is to see it at work on a current issue. AmeriCares is one of the organizations currently sending aid to countries affected by the recent West African Ebola outbreak.

Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are directly involved in what is being called the largest recorded Ebola outbreak in history. At least 700 people have already died, with 1,300 more infected. What’s worse, there is no vaccine for Ebola and the fatality rate is almost 60 percent.

AmeriCares has sent three shipments of emergency medical equipment to the affected countries. The delivery weighed 2,700 pounds and included tens of thousands of surgical masks and caps, gloves and various medical supplies.

Support like this is desperately needed in the affected countries, as they are lacking in medical equipment and supplies. Liberia and Sierra Leone have stated that the demand for intravenous fluids is rapidly outnumbering the supply.

Luckily, in conjunction with Baxter International Inc., AmeriCares is sending enough intravenous fluid for 3,000 patients. This should cover everyone affected in both countries for the near future.

AmeriCares is a U.S. based non-profit founded in 1982. Its main goal is to provide direct aid assistance during times of crisis. According to their website, they “deliver medicines, medical supplies and humanitarian aid to a trusted network of clinics, hospitals and health care providers around the world.”

Even though direct aid during times of crisis is its main form of support, it still tries to foster sustainable healthcare practices and to “increase capacity, improve quality and provide more access to health care in the world’s poorest countries.”

This means giving medicine and medical attention to people that would otherwise not be able to afford it. For example, in Romania a boy with hemophilia was given the treatment of Factor VIII so that he could live a normal life. Or in Cambodia, where a woman with breast cancer now has access to the medicine and equipment necessary for her treatment.

AmeriCares’ website has dozens of examples of the everyday lives it changes by simply allowing for access to medical facilities and supplies.

Besides the recent Ebola outbreak, AmeriCares is working on other current crises: it has delivered $19.7 million in relief aid to the Philippines in response to the destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan. It states that its money is used for, “medicines and medical supplies, antibiotics, chronic care meds, bandages, nutritional supplements, blankets and other relief supplies for hospitals and health centers.” AmeriCares sends volunteers to help in the relief effort, as well.

AmeriCares is also active in the Syrian Conflict. In June 2013, it sent a response team to Jordan and Turkey to assess the situation of Syrian refugees. So far, $2 million have been sent in medical aid for the refugee camps.

The amount of medical aid sent will help around 67,000 people affected by this crisis.

– Eleni Marino

Sources: The Guardian, It’s Relevant, AmeriCares, Charity Navigator
Photo: New York CBS

As of May 27, 1,029,779 Syrian refugees were registered and residing in Lebanon, creating a challenging situation in an already unstable country. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO,) a United Nations entity that has been active in Lebanon since 1977, is addressing an aspect of food security in agriculture through an on-going livestock vaccination campaign that addresses the needs of Northern Lebanon’s poor and rural farmers.

Since the on-set of the Syrian crisis, the influx of refugees has put a significant strain on the agricultural sector which is working to provide food security to both local people and refugee families.

In addition to the increase in demand for food and decrease in production due to the pressure from the refugee influx, many farmers in the Bekaa Valley in Northern Lebanon have not had adequate access to veterinary services or necessary animal medicine, feed and fertilizer for their livestock.

Bekaa Valley, one of the poorest areas in Lebanon where agriculture generates around 80 percent of local gross domestic product (GDP), hosts around 60 percent of the UNHCR registered refugees. Since most of the low-income families rely heavily on livestock for food security, an outbreak in disease would not only risk the health of the livestock and people, but also their livelihood.

Due to the conflict and the 250-300 cattle and goats crossing from Syria into Lebanon each day, the FAO began a nationwide vaccination campaign targeting Transboundary Animal Diseases (TADs) such as foot & mouth disease, lumpy skin disease and ovine rinderpest. Beginning last summer and running through August 2014, it has been largely successful, reaching 70 percent of the livestock in Lebanon so far.

The program not only works to increase the number of sheep, goats and cattle vaccinated against important diseases, but also provides resources to ensure that livestock is adequately nourished and make sure farmers in communities that are hosting large refugee populations are still able to make a living.

As the on-going refugee crisis in Lebanon threatens to draw 170,000 more people into poverty by the end of 2014, it is important that investments continue to be made to promote agricultural growth, one of the most effective ways in reducing poverty. The FAO’s vaccination campaign is one step in securing the livelihoods of rural farmers in Northern Lebanon against potentially devastating livestock diseases.

– Andrea Blinkhorn

Sources: Daily Star, IRIN News, United Nations, UNHCR 1, UNHCR 2
Photo: Wallsave

Yahya, a young man from Homs, Syria, unexpectedly became international news when he registered as the one-millionth Syrian refugee in Lebanon. The United Nations described this as a “devastating milestone” in the last three years of conflict. Another 2,500 refugees register every day, and it is estimated that another half-million unregistered are residing within the country.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative Ninette Kelley explained by publicizing the one-millionth refugee the U.N. wants “the world to see what it means to individuals, being torn apart by the Syrian conflict,” but also to “show what a tremendous burden the Lebanese people are bearing.”

Lebanon has a population of only four million, making it the country with the highest per capita concentration of refugees in the world. Having a volatile history of its own, the Lebanese government foreshadows that this rapid influx could have dangerous consequences. UNHCR Antonio Guterres has stated, “The influx of a million refugees would be massive in any country. For Lebanon, a small nation beset by internal difficulties, the impact is staggering.”

A total of 2.6 million refugees have fled Syria to Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Egypt, meaning that soon, Afghans might not be the world’s largest refugee population anymore. Turkey, Iraq and Jordan have allocated land for the refugees, something the Lebanese government has not imitated. This means that the Syrian refugees in Lebanon often live in appalling slum-like conditions. It is typical to find people living in underground parking garages and under bridges where there’s no running water, electricity or sanitation.

Nearly half the refugees are children, and there are now more school-aged refugees than Lebanese children in state schools.

Aid workers have been restricted to dealing with only the most dire and extreme cases among refugees because the 2014 appeal for $1.7 million has only been 14 percent funded. “International support to government institutions and local communities is at a level that, although slowly increasing, is totally out of proportion with what is needed,” Guterres said.

– Lydia Caswell

Sources: Daily Journal, Reuters
Photo: Global Post


Half a million people or one third of all refugees from the conflict in Syria. These are the realities of the influx of Syrian refugees that has flooded into Jordan since the start of the conflict.

For two years, Jordan has accepted these refugees, setting up camps hosting up to 100,000 Syrians. The situation, however, has become extreme. With numbers like these resources and supplies have become a major concern. And as a result, Jordan has closed its border with Syria, turning all but critically injured refugees away.

Jordan has yet to give an official explanation for the closure, but their reasons are evident. With no assistance from the outside world, Jordan has been bearing the cost of these refugees for two years now. This includes both running the refugee camps and providing healthcare. And with such crowded living conditions  in the camps, rates of infectious diseases continue to climb. Furthermore, as summer approaches, the risk of dehydration increases. All of these conditions place huge demands on the Jordanian government.

Although millions of dollars of international assistance have been pledged, only a fraction has arrived so far. And with a thousand new refugees arriving at the border every day, the strain has become too much. Though the closing of its borders represents a breach of an international obligation to be open to refugees, the international community has avoided criticizing Jordan, likely because the rest of the international community has not stepped in to alleviate the pressure.

While many international organizations are already working in the region, including Médecins Sans Frontières, what is really needed is financial support. These organizations have limited funding, and without the proper infrastructure in place, their impact is limited.

It’s time for the international community to step in, rather than simply allowing the countries like Jordan that neighbor Syria to bear the brunt of the responsibility for the welfare of the refugees.

– David Wilson

Source: Reuters,MSF
Photot: Demotix

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