In his Thanksgiving address this year, President Obama said to our nation: “We believe in lending a hand to folks who need it. We believe in pitching in to solve problems even if they aren’t our problems. And that’s not a one-day-a-year belief. It’s part of the fabric of our nation.”
I could not agree more. As this 33-month-old conflict now enters its third winter, the United Nations has announced a record appeal for $6.5 billion to help displaced Syrians and their host countries, and the U.S. must do its part to help.
As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted Monday, “2013 was the year in which the Syrian conflict deteriorated beyond all imagination. The people of Syria cannot afford another year, another month, even another day of brutality and destruction.”
The UN’s appeal—its largest-ever for a single crisis—is broadly divided into two categories: Some $2.3 billion is to be allocated for the Syria Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan (SHARP) for people inside Syria, while the remaining $4.2 billion is for the Regional Response Plan 6, which helps Syrian refugees and communities in neighboring countries like Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey.
For anyone who should doubt how much these funds are needed, we need only consider how the UN has stretched precious dollars already. UN agencies—from the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF; to the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR; to the World Health Organization; and the World Food Programme—are providing displaced Syrians and Syrian refugees water, education, health care, registration papers, and even a basic place to live each day.
In addition to receiving shelter and clean water, more than 1.3 million children in refugee communities have been vaccinated against disease. Emergency medical supplies have been provided to treat over 2 million people just in the first seven months of this year, and health workers have been trained in chemical hazards management. Further, Syrian children are being given the chance to maintain their education inside and out of formal schools, so that when this crisis hopefully and mercifully ends, there will be a foundation on which society can rebuild.
However, for all the UN is asked and needed to do, barely two-thirds of its 2013 appeal was met to address Syria’s humanitarian crisis. In 2014, the need will almost certainly – and tragically – grow. By the end of next year, substantially more Syrians could be displaced or in need of humanitarian help.
Without the UN presence in Syria and neighboring nations, bare essentials would be unattainable for innocent civilians. Not only now, with the holidays upon us, but also going into the new year, we—as a nation and as individuals—must remain involved in addressing this humanitarian crisis. You can help support the UN’s lifesaving work in Syria.
To support the UN’s work helping Syria’s refugees visit the Emergency Response Fund for Syria.