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On Tuesday, October 13th Syrian doctors Abdulkarim Ekzayez and Ammar Kourany, along with current Save the Children foundation Director Martha Meyers, came to Boston to discuss the humanitarian efforts in Syria and whether these efforts will help stem the flow of refugees.
Meyers spoke first, going into detail about how Save The Children, a non-profit organization, works and where they get their funding from. Save the Children works independently from the government, however there are many political strings that come with the money they receive. Meyers explained how difficult it is to find the balance between politics and money, especially on the global scale in which the Save the Children organization works.
The organization focuses on two major goals when going into an area and giving aid: humanitarian response and development. This involves meeting basic needs such as food and clean water, along with building economies and education.
Save the Children tries to find solutions to the questions of: How do we function in Syria with so many military groups present? How do we give aid to children when they are surrounded by groups with ties to Al Quaeda?
Dr. Ekzayez, Health Program Manager for Save the Children, and Dr. Kourany, Safety and Liaison Manager, started their talk with the Syrian lifestyle before this turmoil ensued. Syria was a country with an enriched culture full of civilized people, people that believe in democracy. All children went to school. There were 482 hospitals and 1,700 health care clinics completely funded by the government free of charge to all Syrian citizens.
All of them are gone now. In 2013, there were 36 confirmed cases of polio in Syria. A disease that most Americans are not even concerned about was a serious threat for Syrian children. There are currently 3 million children that are out of school and the literacy rate in the country is plummeting. What happened? How did it get this bad?
Revolution in Syria started in March of 2011 when children wrote anti-government sentiments on the school walls. They were quickly arrested and the Syrian people took to the streets to try and have them freed. The opposition escalated, the government injured people who were the most involved in the protests, and they were quickly escorted to prisons with only basic first aid given to them.
There are currently six different military groups in Syria fighting for control. People fighting for democracy grouped together and grew in size and weaponry. However, they were no match for the regime of Syria, Iran, Iraq, and/or Russia and their air strikes. Soon ISIS was established in Syria and controlled the majority of the northern region. Thousands of Syrian citizens have been fleeing to Europe and wherever else they can to escape this terror.
After six months of disaster, Martha Meyers began organizing to give aid to Syria. The first goal of Save the Children was to get as many children as they could properly vaccinated, especially with polio because of the outbreak. It took a long time to get into these small communities that were being heavily guarded by military forces but eventually these doctors and volunteers were allowed to go door to door and administer shots to prevent these children from getting the disease.
In 2014, one year after those 36 confirmed cases, there was only one confirmed case of polio in Syria. That is due to the ten rounds of vaccinations the Save the Children doctors were able to administer. As of right now, there are no confirmed cases of polio in Syria for this year.
Dr. Ekzayez and Dr. Kourany want to try and have the same impact on these children with other diseases, not just polio. They are also trying to help achieve the goals that Martha Meyers emphasized: giving basic needs and building up the economy. Thanks to Save the Children, there are currently 240 thousand people receiving clean water and 340 thousand receiving food baskets. They have started 400 farmer projects to promote business within the country and have created community centers for children to give them education and support.
Having been informed of all that is going on in Syria and the amount of aid that is being given to people, the original question is posed: Will humanitarian aid help stem the flow of refugees coming out of Syria? The answer is no. There is simply not enough help to completely stop people from needing to leave Syria but it can definitely slow it down.
The only thing that will stop Syrians from leaving is if the violence is stopped. We, as an American superpower, need to own up to our responsibilities and talk to our representatives to see what exactly our government is doing to help these people.