It was just a few years ago that ordinary Syrian citizens were living their lives. Shops were open for business, bakeries were filled with warm Markook flatbread, schools were packed with children, and hospitals were sanctuaries for the sick.
March 15 marks three years since Syrians knew life like this, and after unrelenting civil war, their country today is nearly unrecognizable. Innocent civilians are experiencing what has quickly swelled to the biggest humanitarian crisis of our day. Some have even called it "apocalyptic."
I wish I could disagree.
More than 9.3 million people have fled their homes -- some after seeing their family members killed or their neighbors bombed. Seven out of 10 people who have been forced to flee remain in Syria, and three million people remain trapped in hard-to-reach or besieged areas without enough to eat or the most basic necessities. For more than a year, an estimated 250,000 people have been cut off from any assistance. Half of those suffering are children. Reports of abuse against men, women and children, including torture and rape, are alarming.
This already devastating crisis continues to deteriorate. It is increasingly likely that we will see half of the pre-civil war Syrian population internally displaced or living as refugees.
The world, in the face of such horror, cannot remain silent.
InterAction and its members, U.S.-based international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), are joining with millions of people and other organizations across the globe to shed light on the desperate situation, calling for immediate and unfettered humanitarian access. This means no more blocking of humanitarian aid, no more attacks on aid workers, and enough funds for the massive international aid response required.
Reaching civilians with desperately-needed food, medicine and other essentials is a major challenge. InterAction members are an integral part of the response effort, and in partnership with heroic Syrian aid workers, are helping to alleviate the suffering of Syrian people both inside the country and in neighboring ones (where refugee levels are approaching a dangerous saturation point).
More must be done to ensure effective humanitarian action. Specifically, InterAction and 51 CEOs from our member organizations are calling on:
- All parties to the conflict to work with the United Nations and donor governments to immediately allow and facilitate unfettered humanitarian access throughout Syria, and put an end to the targeting of schools and hospitals.
- Governments to meet the 2014 UN humanitarian funding appeal of5.6 billion for the Syria crisis.
- Governments to continue to support neighboring countries and host communities that are supporting refugees fleeing the conflict.
- The international community to increase resettlement of refugees from Syria, particularly the most vulnerable, to third countries and ensure that resettlement and asylum is a component of the overall humanitarian response.
The biggest humanitarian crisis of our day demands the biggest global call to action and relief effort we can muster. You can help. Go to interaction.org or with-syria.org to find out how to get involved. Join the global vigil on March 13. Participate in the conversation on Twitter using the #withSyria hashtag. Share our CEO statement.
Above all, do not stay silent. If we remain silent, we will lose an entire generation of young people to this crisis.