Amina is an 8-year-old girl living in Syria. Like many kids, she helps her family with chores. One day, Amina was picking olives with her grandmother in the family garden when a bomb hit, killing her grandmother and sending shrapnel flying into Amina’s body. She survived, but is now paralyzed.
Amina now bears the scars of a war that has marred her childhood. But she is just one of the estimated 5.6 million children in Syria who are in need of humanitarian assistance. While the conflict has gotten increasingly worse, the American people’s interest has begun to wane. Here’s why you should still care about Syria.
The Worst Humanitarian Crisis of Our Time
This month, the Syrian conflict entered its fifth year. The relentless fighting has taken a catastrophic toll, making Syria the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. More than 220,000 people have lost their lives and more than 12 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria–3 million more than a year ago. More than half of the entire Syrian population has fled their homes due to the violence, and an entire generation of Syrians–like Amina–are losing their childhood.
Faces Behind the Numbers
The overall numbers are important and show us the scale of humanitarian needs, but behind each number is a person, and we should never forget that. With disasters and crises, it’s easy to get caught up in statistics. This is especially true for Syria where the numbers are astronomical and continue to grow. But when you really take the time to learn the stories behind the numbers — like of Yousef Abo losing his wife, two sons and two daughters when a missile hit his home — you realize just how much people have lost. It’s this that drives humanitarians to keep striving to save lives.
No One is Immune
The violence, death, loss and everyday hardship have seeped through all parts of Syrian society and affect everyone. Mothers struggle to care for their young ones; fathers grieve the loss of children; sisters and brothers help each other learn to play again after losing limbs; and the elderly watch an entire life’s worth of memories get lost under piles of rubble. Children are out of school, adults struggle to find work, and people wonder where they will get their next meal.
A crisis of this magnitude is not contained by borders. Nearly 4 million people have fled to other countries to escape the violence in Syria. This influx of people has had massive regional impacts. In Lebanon, one in four people is a Syrian refugee. In Jordan-already one of the world’s driest countries-the addition of more than 600,000 refugees has further strained the water supply. Now some areas have less than 8 gallons of water per person per day – a tenth of what the average American uses. In Turkey, which currently hosts over 1.7 million Syrians, some communities in the southeast have seen their population double in size – creating a need for more schools and hospitals, along with upgrades to sewage systems and electric grids.
Standing with the Syrian People
These are some of the reasons why we should still care about Syria, whose people have endured unspeakable tragedy during the last four years of a brutal war that has torn their country apart. Today, in Kuwait at the Third International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, the United States announced nearly $508 million in additional humanitarian assistance – bringing our total aid to almost $3.7 billion since the crisis began.
While humanitarian aid won’t solve this conflict, it is saving lives. From the beginning of the crisis, we’ve provided water, shelter, critical relief supplies, food, and absolutely vital medical and psychosocial care to people like Amina, and we will continue to do so.
During her recovery, Amina told the people helping her, “I refuse to surround myself with sadness.” If Amina can remain so determined and resilient, the least we can do is refuse to let her stand alone.