As reported yesterday by the Associated Press and other news outlets, world leaders convened yet again in an effort to arrive at a solution to the Syrian refugee crisis. The one-day meeting in London promised $10 billion to help fund housing, education programs and jobs for refugees. Nevertheless, the $6 billion pledged for this year and another $5 billion promised through 2020 will fall short of what the United Nations and other organizations say is needed.
The U.N. estimates about $9 billion is needed this year alone to assist the 4.6 million Syrians who have fled their country and the 6.6 million who have been displaced within Syria — and, of all these people, half are children. When the tragic photo of Alan Kurdi surfaced in September, many NGOs, including World Vision, reported a massive uptick in donations. Fundraising may have spiked, but these people have faced rejection in most of Europe (with the exception of Serbia and Germany), vilification in the U.S. (thanks to Donald Trump and other politicians), and are used as propaganda by the likes of Daesh (otherwise known as IS, ISIS or ISIL).
Once these refugees manage to escape hell in the Middle East, they often end up landing in another one in Turkey, the Greek Islands, the Balkans and elsewhere in Europe. Reports have surfaced that Syrians “lucky” enough to find work in Turkey’s garment factories have been exploited and abused. In Denmark, legislation that could allow the government to seize asylum seekers’ possessions in order to cover the cost related to such expenses recently became law.
But while these Syrians (repeat, they are refugees, not migrants, as most want to go home but have fled for their lives and are not seeking economic opportunities) have become caught in a cruel game of political football, there are some organizations that are going against the grain and doing what they can to help. The list is long, but here are few that stand out, and all are in need of donations:
Islamic Relief USA: While the Red Cross and other well known NGOs have been bogged down by poor administration and even corruption, there is one organization that prides itself on transparency and efficiency. Based in the Washington, D.C. area, IRUSA has worked in over 30 countries. In the U.S., it is helping with the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. In Syria, this organization’s workers have helped to deliver medical supplies, food, water and goods crucial during the harsh winters in the refugee camps strewn across Lebanon and Jordan.
Karam Foundation: One of the largest long-term threats from this crisis is that as many as 3.3 million children have not been able to attend school, stunting their development and putting them in danger of a lifetime of poverty. Operating out of the Chicago area, this organization has led a bevy of projects in the Middle East, including recent initiatives to fund scholarships for displaced Syrian children and to rebuild schools within the war-torn country.
Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS): Taking on one of the most dangerous tasks, MOAS is a group of medical professionals, maritime officers and humanitarian aid workers who lead search-and-rescue operations across the Mediterranean. MOAS says it has rescued approximately 12,000 people over the past two years.
Refugees Welcome (Flüchtlinge Willkommen): An “AirBnB” for displaced Syrians, this German nonprofit helps matches refugees with those who have spare rooms. The program has since spread to eight additional European countries with another 20 nations establishing groups to assist refugees who need a roof over their heads.
Small Projects Istanbul: Another organization focused on education to prevent a “lost generation,” SPI raises money so that Syrian children can attend school in Turkish or Syrian schools, provides skills classes so that women can support their families, and also offers English classes.
This is hardly an exhaustive list, and to be fair, plenty of large companies, including Google, have contributed funds and logistics during this refugee crisis. Even professional soccer clubs have donated money toward this cause.
Overall, however, it is the work of many unheralded not-for-profit organizations that have helped make a difference on the ground while global leaders exult big promises, but look nervously over their shoulders as far too many citizens respond to the war in Syria with fear instead of compassion.
Image credit: World Bank Flickr