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Syria’s children have been tuned out

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Girls collect water from a tap in Zaatari camp, Jordan. Photo: Caroline Gluck/Oxfam
Girls collect water from a tap in Zaatari camp, Jordan. Photo: Caroline Gluck/Oxfam

“Syria, my beloved country, will I ever return to you?” –Reema, a child refugee from Syria

Maybe it’s because my neighbors see the wreckage in Syria as generic flotsam—just some shapeless stuff forced to the surface of their attention, somehow connected to the general instability sweeping parts of the Middle East since the Arab Spring uprisings.

Maybe my friends missed the news about a massacre of children, women and men in the Syrian village of Baniyas a few weeks ago, its images so graphic that most media outlets retreated to banal prose to illustrate yet another terrible chapter in the Syrian conflict.

None of my relatives read The Atlantic magazine’s story of Syrian girls as young as 10 sold into marriage by their families, and called to say, “OK. I understand. How can I help?”

In fact, not many people have called at all.

Today, Los Angeles Times foreign affairs reporter Paul Richter wrote about the flat-lining fundraising around the crisis unfolding in Syria—funds that would otherwise go directly to delivering life-saving aid to refugee families. Now the world’s largest humanitarian disaster, lack of interest from Americans …

reflects the murky nature of the Syrian war. It also serves as a rough gauge of public sentiment on a crisis that has frustrated the Obama administration for more than two years. … The reasons for the public’s reserved attitude are clear. Syria’s civil war involves multiple armed groups, none of which appears entirely sympathetic in American eyes.

In today’s Ottawa Citizen, in an article titled No one cares about Syria, columnist Terry Glavin tried to drive home the scale of this emergency, and concluded the following:

As a humanitarian crisis, Syria is worse than the Kosovo War of the late 1990s and the Haiti earthquake of 2010 combined.

A few weeks ago, I sat across from Ray Offenheiser, president of my own organization and a man with decades in development and relief work, as he spoke to a Foreign Policy magazine reporter about the scale of need. He dropped two candid thoughts on Cable blogger John Hudson: Syria’s crisis, in terms of scale of need, is one of the largest he’s ever seen; and humanitarian organizations including Oxfam cannot raise money to deliver aid to a growing number of Syrian refugees who need it. These people in need are mostly kids, he said.

Kids.

I have one. He’s 3 years old. He is home with my wife, his mother.

Brutalized, displaced and denied a future, the plight of Syrian children is a non-story, especially in the American media. More than half of all refugees are children. Many of the dead—which the UN today reported number 93,000—are kids or their mothers, those who were unable to flee across the border into neighboring countries to seek refuge. Others may succumb to diarrheal diseases without access to safe, clean water.

Syrians are suffering terribly and they need your help. What’s happening in Syria and surrounding countries is a humanitarian disaster of staggering proportions, and Syria’s children are bearing a disproportionate burden in this violent conflict.

Oxfam is working today to protect families who have fled their homes from the risks and indignities of displacement. We are providing access to shelter, food, water, and sanitation – critical aid that is in dangerously short supply.

You, too, can help these children and their families by donating now.

It’s not confusing. It’s not murky. It’s crystal clear: Syrians need our help.

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