This month, the Syrian civil war enters into its fifth year. And despite several U.N. Security Council Resolutions, the war—and the humanitarian crisis it has caused—is only getting worse.
Findings from a new report put together by 21 aid organizations called “Failing Syria”, shows that 2014 was the worst year on record. Of the more than 220,000 people killed in the conflict, 76,000 died last year. An estimated 18,000 of those were civilians. Millions have been displaced, and even those who have managed to escape the violence of war are faced with dire circumstances in overcrowded refugee camps.
Many of them—including large numbers of children—have little access to basic necessities like food, shelter and education. Even basic infrastructure like electricity is now in shambles: 83 percent of lights in the country have gone out since the war first began.
Low donor rates and unsafe conditions on the ground have made humanitarian assistance even more of a challenge, and it’s become increasingly difficult to get aid to people who desperately need it. CNN reports, “Aid convoys are finding it harder to get to the people who need their help, reaching 63 percent fewer beneficiaries in 2014 than in 2013.”
From the “Failing Syria” report:
The UN Security Council (UNSC)—the body responsible for international peace and security—called for an urgent increase in access to humanitarian aid in Syria and demanded that all parties immediately cease attacks against civilians, end arbitrary detention, kidnapping and torture, and lift sieges of populated areas … However, the resolutions, and the hope they provided, have rung hollow for Syrian civilians. They have been ignored or undermined by the parties to the conflict, other UN member states, and even by members of the UNSC itself.
But, some of the most surprising numbers being released about the conflict aren’t just the ones that confirm how many people are suffering—they’re the numbers that show just how misinformed many Americans are about what’s happening in Syria.
World Vision International has released the following findings, taken from recent survey results, to demonstrate how Americans perceive the severity of the Syria crisis, opposed to the reality of what’s really happening:
The numbers may be disheartening, but there are things you can do to make a difference.
Unlike many international crisis and natural disasters, coverage of what’s happening in Syria isn’t featured nightly on cable news, and the country is becoming increasingly dangerous, even for journalists. But, information is out there, and staying informed is the first step in helping to usher in change. As Wynn Flaten, World Vision’s Syria Response Director explained, “Despite the enormous magnitude of the crisis, it’s far too easy to turn a blind eye and ignore the suffering as something that is happening ‘over there.’ Children have lost homes, friends, family members and witnessed or experienced violence. It’s time to face the harsh realities of this war.”
Being able to communicate the magnitude of what’s happening in Syria—on social media and among peers—can raise the awareness level of why it’s so critical to support aid organizations assisting in the conflict. From the World Vision report:
World Vision raised $36 million from people donating in the United States in the first year after the Haiti earthquake—$5.9 million of that in the first week alone. In comparison, as the Syrian conflict moves into its fifth year, the organization has only raised $2.7 million from private donations in the U.S. So far just 3 percent of World Vision’s entire Syria crisis response funding has come from private donors worldwide, making it one of the lowest response rates to a disaster.
Organizations like World Vision, Oxfam, Save the Children and many others, are on the ground, helping those who have been displaced by the violence. And while supporting organizations serving the victims of the crisis is critical, the more people who actually understand magnitude the conflict, the more pressure will be put on the international community to help end the violence.
The conflict itself is complicated, but it’s civilians who are caught in the middle of the fighting. Spokesman for the UN Chief Stephane Dujarric told the BBC, “We have found a lack of political will to move forward in a united fashion to stop the fighting.”
Supporting organizations making a difference and recognizing the magnitude of the crisis are ways that we can all help those suffering, and compel the political will of people in power to work hard to actually take steps to end the war, start the process of rebuilding Syria.
Jesse Carey is a mainstay on the weekly RELEVANT Podcast and member of RELEVANT's executive board. He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and two kids.