In the last week, we have seen terrible violence and a humanitarian emergency develop in Aleppo, Syria. Five years of civil war have come to a head, with the Syrian government and its forces trying to take total control of Syria’s economic center and largest city. Civilians in the city have suffered from air strikes by the government and its allies. When many of them attempted to flee, they were not allowed to, essentially becoming trapped between government forces and opposition militias. A ceasefire announced on December 15th offers some hope, but there continue to be conflicting reports about who is being allowed to leave and when. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said this week that “Aleppo is now a synonym for hell.”
People around the world have been moved by photos coming out of Aleppo of mothers and fathers with small children bundled up against the cold and trying to flee the violence and by direct appeals through social media from individuals whose lives were in danger. For those evacuees who are able to leave, it is unclear where they will go or what awaits them. We here at The Philanthropic Initiative have also been stirred by the immense humanitarian needs in Aleppo and across Syria. For those funders interested in engaging deeply on this issue, TPI is happy to discuss with you how we might serve as a resource. For those looking to respond to this crisis in the short term, we also recommend the following organizations who are operating inside Syria:
- Syrian Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets, is a volunteer rescue organization that rushes in to provide aid to victims of violence. Its Hero Fund provides support to injured volunteers and to the families of those killed in action. The White Helmets have been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and are featured in a recently released Netflix documentary.
- Doctors without Borders/Medecins san Frontieres is providing medical supplies to evacuees who have been able to leave Aleppo. The group will facilitate travel to Turkey for people seeking treatment for urgent or complex health-related needs.
- Hand in Hand for Syria is an organization started by people of Syrian descent. Their team in East Aleppo evacuated this week, and they have now established an emergency fund to assist people leaving.
- UNICEF, the UN agency responsible for the protection of children, is advocating for a stop in violence to allow safe evacuation of children from Aleppo. They also provide direct services to children and adults in Aleppo, including access to water.
- Mercy Corps has one of the largest food delivery operations in north Syria, reaching over 500,000 people. Together with its partners, Mercy Corps is also an important voice calling for sustained humanitarian access throughout the country.
- Others, including the Center for Civil Society and Democracy in Syria and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, are playing important information sharing and advocacy roles.
As more civilians are able to escape Aleppo, they will become internally displaced people (IDPs) or refugees, so continued support to refugee causes is needed.