I shiver when I think of Alan Kurdi (initially reported as Aylan Kurdi), the three year Syrian boy, who’s lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach. When I first saw those images on television I couldn’t help but think “My eldest is the same age!” It’s been just over a year now since images of his body was shared throughout the world. Many reacted in horror and, like me, thought about their own children. But a year later, nothing much has changed. Children and adults escaping the atrocities of Syria are still dying or putting their lives in severe danger to escape the conflict.
Then in August this year another image of a boy, Omran Daqneesh (5), made headlines around the world after he was pulled out of the rubble, dazed and confused also in Aleppo following an air strike. These two boys are not the first to be reported on when it comes to the war in Syria and they’re bound, sadly, not be to the last.
Perhaps the lack of action could be summed up by the fact that some powerful people are ignorant about the problems people into Middle East and elsewhere in the world are facing. Just last month, Libertarian presidential nominee, Gary Johnson, appeared clueless about the Syrian crisis, asking “What is Aleppo?” when asked about his opinion of the crisis in a television interview.
But I don’t merely want to focus on all the evils and lack of awareness of this world as there are a lot of people and organizations that are inherently good that help in whichever way they can. As 2016 is coming to a close I thought I’d list a few of these ‘angels’ and amazing causes that are doing good in the Middle East and also in my home country, South Africa (blog and link to follow) that we could all think about helping (financially or through other means) as we near the festive season and beyond.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of the charities you could support that are doing good work in the Middle East. But if you have been affected by the fighting and the humanitarian disaster we face in Syria, Iraq and surrounding areas you may want to support these worthy causes. If you have any other suggestions I’d be glad to add them to the list or do a follow up:
1. Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS)
This is an organisation that helps the likes of Alany Kurdi. It is a Malta-based registered foundation which is helping to prevent loss of life by providing professional search-and-rescue assistance to refugees and migrants in distress at sea.
2. International Rescue Committee (IRC)
World renowned physicist, Albert Einstein, once said: “A life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” So founded at Einstein’s request is the IRC, which offers aid and solutions to most humanitarian crisis. The IRC says that it and it’s partners provide medical attention, trauma counseling and emergency supplies to thousands of Syrians trapped by the war.
How can you help? There are various ways to help this organization. You can start you own campaign, give a rescue gift, volunteer, and of course, donate money.
3. Unicef (South Africa)
It’s a leading humanitarian and development agency working globally for the rights of children worldwide. It’s been around for decades (70 years in fact) and has done everything from helping children after World War II to fighting Ebola.
Unicef says that within the Syrian Arab Republic, some 6.5 million people have been displaced. Nearly five million Syrians have been registered as refugees. Many families have lost everything – including, for those who have fled the country, the protections that come with citizenship. It says that it, along with its partners, are committed to delivering essential services for Syrian families and keeping Syrian children from becoming a ‘lost generation’.
How can you help? Go to the website, click on the donate page and tell them which country you reside in and it will send you through to the right donations page. You can also help by donating through its ChildrenofSyria website.
4. Save the Children
Last Thursday, Save the Children highlighted in a statement how children are dying of thirst or being killed by stepping on makeshift landmines as families desperately try and escape fresh fighting on the road to Mosul in northern Iraq. Save the Children relays on its website how one family of five, now reduced to three, said they lost two children to hidden explosives. Sadly, the family were unable to retrieve the bodies for fear of further landmines in the area.
Save the Children and its partners have worked tirelessly to reach over one million internally displaced children and adults in Syria’s south, central, northeast and northwest regions. Its teams are also working in refugee camps and host communities in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey to provide tens of thousands of refugee children and their families, as well as children from host communities, with access to critical resources and services.
The charity says it works directly with children and families and acts immediately when conditions change to adapt programs to meet children’s most urgent needs.
How can you help? You can volunteer, create a campaign or an event/fundraiser, leave a gift in your will, partake in the raffles, join it’s payroll giving scheme (where you pay when you earn) or donate money. The UK division of the charity says that for every pound (R17) they receive 88p goes to activities to benefit children, 11p goes towards raising the next £1 and 1p is spent on governance and other costs.
5. Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)
They’ve tweeted about how in Aleppo: “Some patients arrive in difficult untreatable condition. They die in front of us,” and called on Russia and Syria to stop the indiscriminate bombings. MSF supports eight hospitals in eastern Aleppo, runs six medical facilities across northern Syria and supports more than 150 health centers and hospitals across the country, many of them in besieged areas.To find out more about the work they are doing in Syria, click here.
How can you help? There are many was to support MSF, including making a single donation, a monthly donation or giving through partnerships. South Africans can donate their Pick n Pay Smartshopper points, their FNB eBucks points or link their MySchool card to MSF. Whenever you swipe your MySchool, MyVillage, or MyPlanet card at a My School partner store, that store will donate a percentage of your transaction amount to MSF. The partner stores pay the donation on your behalf. For other ways to help, click here.
6. The Karam Foundation
Founded in Chicago in 2007, this non-profit organisation started off by doing food drives. Now it helps families in need in Syria, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordon. Karam means ‘generosity’ in Arabic.
*The Toy Smuggler of Aleppo
We initially mentioned the Toy Smuggler of Aleppo’s story in this post. However, recent reports have indicated that Rami Adham, a father of six, who became known as the ‘Toy Smuggler’ is currently being investigated for fraud by the Finnish police. Adham, who has rejected the fraud allegations, has been taking Barbie dolls, footballs and teddy bears into Syria, including his hometown of Aleppo. He also runs a charity in Finland which provides aid in Syria through local partners. We’ve also cut him from the list as he, according to reports, recently stopped accepting donations, saying his small charity does not have the capacity to accept more funds. He had a Gofundme page and the funds are set to go towards building schools in Syria, close to Turkish borders.
We still feel his story is a heartwarming one which is why we continue to keep a mention of him in this post. You can follow him on Facebook too, but just to warn you – some of the images he has there can be quite harrowing. As soon as we know the results of the investigation we’ll definitely update the post.
*Updated 1 December 2016.