Seventy-eight nations, plus 40 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), recently gathered in Kuwait to raise money for the relief of Syrian refugees. Kuwait opened the proceedings with a promise of $500 million, matching last year’s donation. The U.S. won the number one position with an offer $507 million, but many participants offered little more than good will. Overall the conference generated $3.8 billion of the $8.4 billion which aid agencies were seeking.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said: “Four out of five Syrians live in poverty, misery and deprivation. The country has lost nearly four decades of human development. Unemployment is over 50 percent. Life expectancy has been cut by an astounding 20 years.”
Some 12.2 million people, more than half of the population, are estimated to need humanitarian assistance. A similar number have been displaced — between 6.5 million and 7.8 million — within Syria, and three to four million have been displaced on to neighboring states.
One of the best ways to help those suffering from the Syrian conflict is through private relief groups. Indeed, the crisis has spawned a variety of relief efforts by NGOs around the world, many of which were represented in Kuwait. Private organizations tend to be more diverse and flexible than public agencies. Many groups have a religious orientation. For instance, World Vision and Catholic Relief Services reflect Christian principles, while Islamic Relief USA is a Muslim organization formed in 1993.
Many other NGOs provide welcome relief throughout the region. CARE, Concern Worldwide, Doctors Without Borders, International Medical Corps, International Rescue Committee, Life for Relief and Development, Mercy Corps, Mercy-USA, Save the Children, and Shelterbox all assist victims of the Syrian civil war. Some groups operate directly in Syria, others serve Syrians outside their country; some organizations go to camps while others run refugee centers in surrounding nations; many NGOs emphasize particular forms assistance, such as education, children’s services, food, health care, and shelter. All make a catastrophic situation slightly less awful.
The many NGOs dedicated to aiding Syrians offer a wealth of options for those inclined to give. There’s no reason to wait for politicians to act.