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How to Help Syrian Refugees

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News cycles come and go, but the crisis of Syrian refugees fleeing their homeland rages on. For this month’s installment of our “Giving Tuesday” series highlighting travel-focused charitable giving, TPG Contributor Christine Cantera gives you a quick recap of the situation as it stands now — and shares how you can help.

Although the Syrian refugee crisis crashed onto the world stage this summer, the conflict that wrought it has been going on for the past five years. The Arab Spring brought about massive regime changes throughout the Middle East, but Syria’s Al-Assad family has held onto its power tightly, bringing about a chaotic and violent civil war among domestic groups that have conflicting visions of Syria’s future. Enter ISIS, everyone’s least favorite extremist organization, which used the chaos to move in and set up camp in hopes of taking over.

Syrian refugees enroute to Austria on September 4, 1025. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
Syrian refugees en route to Austria (and flying the EU flag) in September 2015. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

All this has resulted in the current regime, the rebel factions and ISIS all vying for power in the most brutal ways imaginable – with Syrians caught in the middle and dying by the thousands. This has further resulted in more than seven million Syrians displaced within their homeland and more than four million having fled to neighboring countries.

Because Arab nations have refused to take in refugees and Syria’s immediate neighbors (Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan) are being crushed under the weight of the hundreds of thousands they’re sheltering, the refugees have set their sights on Europe. The surge of refugees into Europe in September 2015 — the largest displacement crisis since WWII — caught the world’s humanitarian organizations by surprise. And though this refugee crisis has fallen from the front-page headlines, the need for humanitarian aid for food, clothing and shelter is at an all-time high.

Syrian refugees camping out at the Keleti Railway station in Budapest, Hungary
Syrian refugees camping out in September 2015 at Keleti railway station in Budapest, Hungary. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

For those who want to give humanitarian aid to refugees but are wary about where your money will actually go, take a moment to check out relief organizations on Charity Navigator or Guidestar to ensure your donation will be in good hands and make the decision that feels right for you. This is what we’ve done, and here are our top choices for charities providing humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees:

Syrian refugees arriving in Greece earlier this year. Photo courtesy of International Rescue Committee.
Syrian refugees arriving in Greece earlier this year. Photo courtesy of International Rescue Committee.

International Rescue Committee

An admirable 92.5% of the IRC’s total expenses are spent on the programs and services it delivers, which makes this our top pick. It’s currently providing relief to millions of uprooted people in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Greece and the US. Right now, the big worry is about encroaching winter weather, which makes the already harrowing journey to safety and freedom even more dangerous. Learn more about giving here.

A Syrian refugee receives baby formula from an ICM mobile-unit worker earlier this month in Rajab, Lebanon. Photo courtesy of International Medical Corps.

International Medical Corps

The IMC is not only providing medical relief to those fleeing conflict, but they’re also training local health care workers to help them. We love this “teach a man to fish” approach to humanitarian aid, which puts it on our list of worthwhile charities to support. And it’s not just injury and illness — IMC is also dedicated to mental health, essential hygiene, gender-based violence and youth empowerment. As just one example of their work on behalf of Syrian refugees, the IMC maintains nine mobile medical units throughout Lebanon to serve the sprawling tent settlements inhabited by more than one million displaced Syrians. Donate to the IMC here.

Photo courtesy of Anna Pantella / Save the Children.
Save the Children provides a wide range of relief to displaced Syrian kids (like this one) living at border camps in the Middle East and Europe. Photo courtesy of STC.

Save the Children

Nightmarish images of child refugees were arguably the catalyst for worldwide interest in the Syrian crisis, and with good reason — the 5.6 million children affected represent nearly half of the total number of refugees. That’s why Save the Children remains a top pick for us. In addition to child-friendly spaces with recreational activities, Save the Children is also training teachers, building or rebuilding schools, providing much needed support to local markets, screening for malnutrition and helping the estimated 11.6 million people who are in urgent need of water and sanitation services. Help STC fundraise on behalf of Syrian refugee children by clicking here or arrange to donate monthly to STC.

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