The people of Eastern Ghouta find themselves stranded as they’re caught in a dangerous crossfire between Syrian government troops and opposition forces.
Once known as an oasis just outside of Damascus in Syria, Ghouta has been under siege since 2013. And in an attempt to oust the last rebel-controlled territory, Syrian government troops are launching bombing campaigns and a ground troop offensive.
The bombings have been merciless with reports of more than 13 hospitals and medical facilities damaged or destroyed. Amnesty International stated that the recent bombing campaign is tantamount to war crimes. In addition to air raids and artillery strikes, the Syrian government has closed roads and tunnels.
As a result, some Eastern Ghouta civilians are suffering from severe malnutrition due to food and medical shortages.
Too many lives have already been lost. As of Feb. 26, the death toll has surpassed 700 civilians, many of whom are women and children. The gruesome violence has sparked international outrage. On Saturday, the United Nations Security Council — which includes Russia, an ally of the Syrian government — voted for a resolution calling for an immediate 30-day ceasefire. But that wasn’t effective in halting the violence between government and rebel forces.
On Monday, President Vladimir Putin called for a daily “humanitarian pause,” which is essentially a daily 5-hour ceasefire. Theoretically, this will allow people to leave safely.
But people living in Eastern Ghouta are still dealing with the horrific aftermath of the siege and are in need of assistance.
As more devastating photos continue to surface, it’s easy to feel hopeless about what’s going on in Syria. But it’s our responsibility, not as members of a developed country, but as basic human beings, to do what we can to help those in need. It’s hard to know where to start — so we put together a few options.
1. Donate to Doctors Without Borders
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders, is a global non-governmental organization dedicated to providing medical relief to war-torn territories and underdeveloped countries.
As of Feb. 21,13 MSF-supported medical facilities and clinics were bombed in the recent air raid. Donating to MSF allows them to continue operating in the region, providing life-saving medical supplies and equipment.
You can send them money here.
2. Support the International Rescue Committee
The International Rescue Committee is another international NGO that provides humanitarian aid, relief, and support to millions of people displaced due to conflict or natural disasters. They have been at the forefront for advocating on behalf of Syrian refugees and providing them with humanitarian necessities as the civil war continues.
You can send them money here.
3. Listen and amplify Syrian voices
The war in Syria has generated a lot of headlines, which in turn, has brought a lot of pundits and experts to the forefront of the conversations. Some have partisan affiliations or an affinity towards a certain stakeholder in this complicated conflict where multiple of governments and non-state actors are involved.
But the fact remains that those who are dealing with the brunt of the bloodshed are Syrians. While it’s good to gain insight and perspective from foreign policy experts and journalists, it’s critical to understand what life is like for Syrians living in conflict zones and refugee camps. This is why it’s imperative to not only listen to them, but to amplify their voices whether that’s through sharing their Facebook post or hold events and/or panel discussions in your community.
4. Learn more about what’s happening in Syria
It’s important to understand what is happening in the Syrian Civil War to help with families suffering in Eastern Ghouta. You can start with these reports and fact sheets from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the UN Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs. More importantly, share these resources and reading material to your network. Educate others.
5. Be involved and get active
You can find a list of protests for Eastern Ghouta here. Sign petitions like this one from Amnesty International. Call your local representatives. Use social media to share photos and footage from the demonstrations you attend, and retweet the ones you didn’t.
6. Spread hope
Spreading hope is something everyone can do. You can send messages of solidarity to those on the ground in Eastern Ghouta on Twitter and Facebook. You can upload a video offering your support or making a prayer for the innocent men, women, and children under siege.
It was Medgar Evers, a black activist at the height of the Civil Rights Era, that said, “you can kill a man, but not an idea.” There’s truth to that statement. But sometimes, especially after hearing about the turmoil and devastating death toll, hope feels like the hardest thing to keep alive. But when we do, it can make all the difference in the world.