How to Help Syrian Refugees

Syrian refugee center - Turkish borderAs their country enters the third year of a bitter civil war, roughly 4 million Syrians have fled their homes.

At least 1 million have crossed into neighboring countries like Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Turkey.

The rest are displaced within Syria, including a large contingency hiding out in Roman-era caves.

And to make the situation even more complex, thousands of these displaced people were already refugees from elsewhere, having fled wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Sudan.

Besides the obvious trauma of displacement, these refugees face a host of other challenges:

  • Access to basic necessities. The massive influx of people strains the region around Syria. Many refugees lack adequate supplies, from blankets to fresh water. As camps grow, the population requires exponentially more well water and food supplies.
  • Child protection. In some cases, armed forces use young boys as porters or even human shields. Young girls are at risk of sexual or physical abuse; as “protection,” their families may try to marry them off. Some of the children are orphaned. Most need educational assistance. You can read a more detailed report on the situation for Syrian children here.
  • Women’s health and safety. The armed forces deliberately target health facilities. As a result, many women fear going to the hospital and are at much greater risk of childbirth complications. They also face threats of physical and sexual violence, while lacking access to legal assistance if and when attacked.
  • Emotional care. Many of the refugees have seen terrible violence and need emotional and psychological assistance. Children especially risk serious damage, as evidenced by some of their illustrations in the camps (see the above report).

I’m not a big fan of refugee camps as a long-term solution – a process known as warehousing, which violates international human rights law. However, at the moment it’s a short-term solution for Syrian refugees. Here are some organizations helping for now, while Syrians fill these camps, far from home, exposed to the elements and constant human threats.

1. Save the Children
Save the Children helps with basic necessities, child protection, and emotional care. They have programs to help children recover physically and psychologically from the trauma of war.

2. The IRC
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) assists Syrian women and children with medical services and legal protection. They offer health and counseling services to victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse.

3. Mercy Corps
Mercy Corps helps with the daily essentials, including building new wells in the camps. They also develop schools and safe play areas for refugee children.

These are all huge but respected international aid organizations with extremely high accountability ratings; but sometimes small, localized groups can work more effectively. If you know of any I’d love to hear about them in the comments. Thanks for your input.

One Response to “How to Help Syrian Refugees”
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  1. […] while back I put together this incomplete list of ways to help Syria’s growing refugee population. I wish there was more we could do, or at least more obvious solutions; but this might serve as a […]

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