A call to action: Help the Children of Syria to prevent a lost generation

Can we help prevent a new cycle of violence in Syria and the Middle East?

I don’t know if you had a chance to read Mark MacKinnon‘s very disturbing account of the current fate of Syria’s displaced children in Saturday’s Globe and Mail (“Why Young Syrian Refugees Will Haunt the Middle East for Decades to Come” Sept 14, 2013), and if you are affected by traumatic details, you may not want to as it is quite graphic. One of the refugee camps, the Zaatari camp in Jordan, is currently housing over 130 000 displaced Syrians in one sun-scorched site. That’s more people than the entire city of Kingston, where I live. Over 50% of those refugees are under 18, and they are struggling with post traumatic stress, and meagre resources. Many of them are acting aggressively towards each other and adults, and have few resources to cope with the unspeakable violence they have seen and experienced in their short lives.

McKinnon write that donations to Syrian refugees have been slow:

Despite the best efforts of a badly underfunded Unicef, only a third of the 180,000 school-age Syrians living in Jordan (the total refugee population is 600,000) were in classes this week as the new semester began. Similar statistics apply to the broader population of Syrian refugees throughout the Middle East.

Unicef relies heavily on the private sector, which covers about 40 per cent of the cost of schools and sanitation centres it runs in crisis areas. But with Syria’s refugees, private donors appear reluctant, thus far making a mere 6 per cent of contributions to Unicef’s region-wide appeal. So just over half of the $470-million being sought for Syrian refugee children this year has been raised. Aid workers suspect donors view Syria, unfairly, as a political problem, rather than a humanitarian one.

As a result, UNICEF classrooms have only 14,000 spots for Zaatari’s 30,000 school-age kids. (Another 30,000-plus kids are under 6, with 10 newborns arriving every day in the camp’s hard-pressed hospitals.) And the learning environment is far from ideal. School No. 2 is a collection of 70 portable classes surrounded by a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire. There’s no electricity, so no fans or air-conditioning in the blazing desert sun, and water reaches the toilets and sinks only sporadically.

Please consider donating to Unicef for this important cause.

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