If Photos Of A Drowned Refugee Boy Broke Your Heart, Here Are 8 Charities Helping Syrian Refugee Children That Could Use Your Help
The civil war in Syria has created the biggest humanitarian crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Since 2011, when the war started, the UN estimates that over 7 million people have fled the country as refugees to Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, and anyplace they can find that is safer than Syria right now. The war and refugee crisis have been going on for years and has cost hundreds of thousands of lives, and the “migrant crisis” has been a matter of intense partisan debate in Europe for some time now, but a lot of people did not really know what was going on, until this week when a devastating photo started making the rounds on the news and made everyone pay attention.
The photos show a tiny, innocent toddler–a three-year-old boy in a red shirt and blue shorts, with little velcro shoes–whose body washed ashore in Turkey this week. According to NPR, the little boy’s name was Aylan Kurdi. He was born in Syria to Abdullah and Rehan Kurdi, and he had an older brother named Galip, who was five. Abdullah Kurdi was a barber, and the family lived in Kobani, Syria, a city on the border of Turkey that is disputed territory between ISIS and Kurdish fighters and has undergone hundreds of airstrikes since 2011.
The family was reportedly attempting to escape from Syria to Greece with 19 other refugees via a 13-mile sea journey when the 15-foot rubber dinghy they were in capsized. Aylan, his brother Galip, and three other children on the boat drowned. Rehan Kurdi drowned too. The only member of the family to survive was Abdullah Kurdi.
“A wave came and flipped us over. I grabbed my sons and wife and we held onto the boat,” he said, according to The Globe and Mail. “We stayed like that for an hour, then the first [son] died and I left him so I can help the other, then the second died, so I left him as well to help his mom and I found her dead. … What do I do. … I spent three hours waiting for the coast guard to come. The life jackets we were wearing were all fake. …
“My wife is my world and I have nothing, by God. I don’t even think of getting married again or having more kids. … I am choking, I cannot breathe. They died in my arms.”
This has been reality for many refugees, but the photo of Aylan that came out of the tragedy shocked and horrified people, who had probably thought of refugees as adults, if they thought of them at all. But according to UNICEF, at least a quarter of those seeking refuge in Europe are children, and there are a lot of them. In the first six months of this year, more than 106,000 children claimed asylum in Europe.
The photo affected a lot of people, even people who already knew about the extent of the Syrian refugee crisis, like Peter Bouckaert, who as emergency director of the charity Human Rights Watch already knew about the number of children and the extent of the tragedy.
“What really touched me was the little sneakers,” he said to NPR. “I’m a father of two boys myself. … I realized that his parents had dressed him that morning for a very difficult journey. … it’s a very disturbing photo, but I think we should be offended that children are washing up dead on our beaches because of the failure of our politicians to provide safe passage … rather than by the photo itself.”
The UN estimates that more than 2,600 people have died this year attempting to escape war via dangerous sea voyages across the Mediterranean, which nobody would undertake if staying where they were was not more dangerous than trying to escape. Tragedies like this have happened before and are probably happening now, but those photos brought the plight of refugees–specifically children–to the forefront for a lot of people who otherwise might not understand.
Here are 8 charities helping in the Syria refugee crisis.
1. Doctors Without Borders – In addition to their work in war-torn areas, Doctors Without Borders also maintains three rescue ships in the Mediterranean. On Tuesday they reportedly rescued over 1,600 refugees from drowning.
2. UNICEF – Unicef provides clean water, medicine, and other services to children in Syria and refugees.
3. Save the Children – This charity has been supporting child refugees with schooling, food, medicine, and more.
4. World Food Program – This is the food assistance branch of the UN and is working to provide food and prevent hunger in Syria and for refugees based elsewhere.
5. The UN Refugee Agency – The UNHRC has been helping Syrian refugees with basic supplies, medical care, food, shelter, and schooling.
6. Migrant Offshore Aid Station – This charity runs independent rescue boats in the Mediterranean.
7. Islamic Relief – This organization has been providing food, medical assistance, and hygiene supplies to vulnerable people in Syria and neighboring areas.
8. International Rescue Committee – The IRC provides economic support, education, health services, reproductive health services, and resettlement services for refugees, especially women and children.
If you have an organization to recommend, let us know in the comments.
(Photo: Srdjan Stevanovic / Getty Images)