The boy is dead, one of at least 12 Syrian refugees who died while trying to get to Greece. He's been identified as Aylan Kurdi, 3. His 5-year-old brother also perished while trying to escape northern Syria, where fighting between Kurdish forces and Islamic insurgents has sent millions of residents running for safety.
It's a photo that's hard to ignore. It's a photo that's finally bringing the West's attention to a crisis that began way back in 2011. Exactly how many refugees have been displaced by the war is hard to pin down, but the European University Institute estimates at least 9 million have fled their homes because of the civil war. Some 150,000 have sought refuge in the European Union, 3 million in neighboring countries, and another 6.5 million have been displaced within Syria.
The questions many Westerners are finally asking: How do we help? Can we help?
The answers aren't simple, but there are some things that can be done:
The international nonprofit is on the ground in Syria, providing kids (and their parents) with nutritious food, warm clothes and critical supplies such as diapers and soap. Ten percent of donations are being set aside to help prepare for future crises, while the rest is being pledged to provide these supplies.
A donation as small as $20 can help provide sleeping mats for two families, while a donation of $100 can provide a family with a small stove to cook their own meals. By UNHCR estimates, donations since January have helped 1.8 million refugees receive food aid, while 500,000 children were enrolled in school, and shelter in camps was provided for more than 460,000 refugees.
It's not just about giving money. Events like the UNICEF Syria Pack and Stack — in which volunteers packed up winter items to help keep Syrian refugee children warm — require physical bodies to do the work. Volunteering for UNICEF to help run events and fundraisers here in the U.S. can have an impact around the world.
Listed by watchdog group Charity Navigator as one of the top 10 best charities everyone's heard of, the IRC provides not only supplies to Syrian refugees but also focuses on ensuring displaced children are getting an education. They've opened 1,500 schools for the children since responding to the crisis in 2012. In addition to giving a straight donation, you can also buy a "rescue gift" to support the IRC causes.
If you have medical training, you can volunteer to go directly to Syria or the surrounding regions to provide medical care to refugees. If you don't, you can still volunteer to provide clerical duties in an office that will help keep the nonprofit's efforts going.
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