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Filipinos and Syrians Desperately Need Food and Shelter

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Imagine, for a moment, losing your home and having to flee to another state or country. When natural disasters or war strike, these worst fears become reality.

As this holiday season approaches, there are millions of people in the Philippines and the Middle East who just want the basics of food, water and shelter.

Last week heavy fighting in Syria sent at least 8,000 people running for their lives into neighboring Lebanon.

"The majority of them are women and children and some of them reported shelling and clashes along displacement routes on the way to Arsal," UN World Food Programme spokesperson Laure Chadraoui told me.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is bringing them aid packages. Some of these refugees had already been displaced once within Syria before now finally being forced out of their home country.

Once in Lebanon, Syrian refugees are not completely safe. Cold and hunger threaten them. The UN Refugee Agency says many "live in poor accommodation in informal settlements, unfinished buildings, garages, worksites and warehouses that are not properly insulated against the cold climate."

Francine Uenuma of Save the Children, says, "when I was in Lebanon last February, when it was extremely cold, and many of the kids were outside in sandals. Many also had coughs -- the sub-zero temperatures mean many face chest infections, not to mention other health problems like hypothermia and frostbite."

Syrians have also fled to Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and Turkey. Throughout the Middle East there are over two million Syrian refugees. Aid groups and host governments are facing a huge task to help these war victims, many who have lost everything.

In Iraq, WFP is providing Plumpy'Doz to small Syrian children who are at risk of severe malnutrition. This special peanut paste can save their lives. The WFP is also providing extra food to children at schools to bolster class attendance and performance.

While this massive relief operation is ongoing in the Middle East, a world away is an emergency in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan. More than 11 million Filipinos were impacted by the high winds, flooding and destruction caused by the storm.

The World Food Programme, UNICEF and other aid groups are rushing to bring them food, water, and medicine. The storm victims need shelter quickly. More rain and storms may be on the way. Aid is needed fast to save lives and to prevent the situation from getting worse.

Consider this: If children, especially, do not get enough nutrients it can cause lasting physical and mental damage. The lack of food or clean water can cause the spread of disease.

As the holidays come before us there is a great tradition called Black Friday, which marks the start of the holiday shopping season. Stores and individuals could donate at least a portion of their sales or purchasing funds toward relief of the suffering people in the Philippines and the Middle East.

Here are lists of some aid agencies with relief funds for the Philippines and for Syria. Some individuals have donated already. It is deeply appreciated too as Jen Hardy of Catholic Relief Services tells us from the Philippines: