By Christina Northey, an Australian who manages CARE’s humanitarian response programs in northern Syria
When the Syrian conflict began around the Arab Spring of 2011, I never thought it would last this long. Few did.
Now, as it enters its seventh year, it is a conflict as long as World War II.
The grim statistics today indicate the massive toll this conflict has taken on the lives of millions of families and a once highly functioning and well-developed country. More than 400,000 people have lost their lives, a further million have been injured. More than half of all Syrians have been forced to flee their homes, often multiple times.
It is a depressing picture all too easy to dismiss when you read it in black and white. Much harder is when you come face to face with the survivors. In reflecting on the Syria conflict, I feel history will judge us for our inaction; in the same way we – a global community – are judged for our inaction on Bosnia and Rwanda in the 1990s.
The temptation is to fall victim to compassion fatigue. And that would be understandable as the situation goes from bad to worse.
But it is precisely this time when compassion and support is needed most.
In 2015, the Australian Government pledged to resettle an additional 12,000 Syrian, and Iraqi, refugees. But this was a drop in the bucket compared to the burden being shouldered globally.
Most Syrian refugees remain in the Middle East, generously hosted by their neighbours Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.
Where I am based, in Turkey, there are over three million Syrian refugees.
Even in the most horrendous circumstances, there are many ways organisations like CARE can help people regain a level of control in their chaotic lives, sustain themselves and their families and restore dignity.
We help refugee families earn an income by providing training opportunities and then connecting them to potential employers in Turkey. It’s just one way to help people regain some level of normality and independence.
Through CARE’s information volunteer program in southern Turkey, Syrians are helping to raise awareness of how families can better cope with the struggles they face. One of the awful choices facing desperate families is marrying off their children, so CARE is providing advice on alternatives to early marriage for young girls.
So far, thanks to our generous donors, CARE has assisted over 2.7 million people affected by the Syria Crisis in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt and Serbia. But we can and must do more for Syrian families; so they regain control over their lives and livelihoods. And we must do more to help these families get back on their feet and maintain some dignity whilst they’re trapped in limbo.
Let’s not put Syria in the too-hard basket. My Syrian colleagues and the communities CARE works with are determined to make their lives better, even as the conflict drags on. We can all help and find hope – even when it seems impossible.
Donate to CARE’s Syrian Refugee Crisis Appeal