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Syria’s Escalating Refugee Crisis

The world has abandoned the Syrian people. This is probably the worst case of world indifference towards an international crisis since the Rwandan Genocide. Since the Syrian Civil War started, 110,000 people have lost their lives and over 2.5 million have become internally displaced or are camping in squalled refugee camps in neighboring countries. That number is expected to increase to 3 million by the end of the year. The amount of money donated by relief organizations is not even close to the amount needed by these refugees. The world is ignoring the plight of these refugees, half of them being children.

The United States is debating the use of force in Syria which would not make a dent in the overall conflict and will not address the issue of thousands of Syrians fleeing their homes every day. They just reached a deal with Russia to destroy chemical weapons in Syria by 2014. Every world leader is ignoring the fact that the Syrian refugee crisis is a major issue and should be front and center in their discussions. Not only that, ordinary people seem oblivious and indifferent to the plight of the Syrian refugees. Donations towards the various NGOs and UN agencies that work with Syrian refugees in neighboring countries have been weak at best.

How indifferent is the world towards the Syrian refugee crisis?

CARE International has only raised $1.86 million for its response to the refugee crisis. Compare that to over $17 million it raised in just three weeks after the 2004 Haitian Earthquake or the $94 million it raised in three weeks after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. Mercy Corps has only raised a mere $900,000 in 27 months compared to the 2.5 million it raised in just a few weeks for the Israeli-Hezbollah Conflict in 2006.

The United Nations has already officially dubbed this the “biggest displacement crisis of all time.”

After every conflict, we promise ourselves to never again stand by and watch all this horror and suffering. But unfortunately, this is exactly what we do. It is who we are. The human race is a rather selfish bunch. It doesn’t matter if these deplorable images flash across our TVs or how many heart-wrenching stories we hear, at the end of the day, we are indifferent. We have this need to see the world in black and white, meaning that we need to identify the good guys and the bad guys. For natural disasters, there are no bad guys so people can empathize and feel they are giving to a good cause. For the Israeli-Hezbollah War, people can clearly identify the good guys and bad guys. In the case of Syria, the line is blurred. There is an opposition who is not united with its ranks dotted with jihadists and extremists. People don’t know who the good guys or bad guys are so they feel it would be easier just to ignore it.

Only 10% of refugee children are able to continue their basic education and only 20% have received counseling for the traumatic horrors that they have witnessed. Children currently represent half the refugees fleeing Syria. The Red Cross expresses grave concern over the shortage of critical medical supplies, food supplies, and water sanitation systems. The United Nations estimates that a mere $4.4 billion is needed.

However, as of July, the United Nations is still $3.1 billion short. Is $3.1 billion a big number? The United States has given the most to alleviate the refugee problem, a mere $228 million. This does not compare to the over $3 billion it gives to Israel annually. There are currently 25 countries that receive substantially more per year that the US’s current contribution to Syria. The next 2 highest contributors to the Syrian refugees are Kuwait with $112 million, and the European Union, a confederation of 28 states with a population of 500 million giving just $50 million.

Let’s face it, every humanitarian agency is calling for more funds to help the Syrian refugee crisis. But we are not listening. We do not seem to care. Our politicians are too busy with their political agenda to care about Syria except for their vague and cheesy political speeches pledging to do more and acting in the best interests of the Syrian people. It seems that if drastic action is not taken, the Syrian refugee crisis will be another human tragedy. Historians will ask months and years from now why the world stood by and watched this tragedy unfold. What will future leaders say? To never again let another human displacement crisis happen again?