Syria's refugee tide: Children at the heart of our mission

Jordan, Lebanon, Syria

August 28, 2012

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    Andras Beszterczey/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Ahmed, his little brother, and the rest of his family recently arrived in Jordan's new Zaatari refugee camp after fleeing their home in Syria. Photo: Andras Beszterczey/Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps was founded over three decades ago to help Cambodia’s huge flow of beleaguered refugees, following the infamous “Killing Fields” slaughter. In fact, we were then called Save the Refugees Fund. In spite of Mercy Corps’ current wide range of global humanitarian strategies and programs, sadly, it appears refugees will forever be in our “portfolio.”

With disquieting regularity, the world watches as conflicts explode around the globe. Now we look on in disbelief as Syria slowly unravels in a kind of slow-motion catastrophe that is reaching massive proportions of death and suffering. The agony continues to play out with no clear solutions on the horizon.

According to official UN estimates, the crisis has forced more than 200,000 refugees into Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan. The actual numbers are certain to be far higher, and they continue to grow.

Children especially are swelling the refugee ranks. It is a scenario I have witnessed over many years in the Middle East, Central America, Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and other war zones. Images of frightened, homeless, confused and sick children are haunting. They are the most innocent and helpless among us, and they suffer the worst in the human tide of the world’s refugees.

That is why Mercy Corps and other humanitarian aid organizations are reaching out to assist Syrian children and families in Jordan and Lebanon with clean water supplies and educational materials. We're also providing crucial emotional support through our signature Comfort for Kids program, which uses tested resources to promote psychological healing and revive hope in traumatized young people.

READ MORE: Latest updates on our response to the Syrian refugee crisis

I shall never forget a conversation I had with Mercy Corps’ first doctor, a young Guatemalan pediatrician, Dr. Oscar Giron, who worked under hazardous conditions to serve refugee children in Honduras. I asked him why he had become a pediatrician working among the poor. “It’s all about the children,” he answered. “Children are the future of our world.”

Weeks later, Dr. Giron was tortured and fatally shot by a military death squad who ambushed him on his way to work with kids in a refugee camp. His life and death have left a deep impression on our organization.

Oscar was right. Children are the future of our world, particularly in the volatile Middle East and North Africa, where roughly half the population is under the age of 25.

With this in mind, let us together reach out to the kids who are caught in this broiling cauldron of conflict. It is a complex international issue. But in my view, there is a simple and compelling choice we can make right now: engaging the moral imperative to come alongside the “children of war” to share comfort and hope for the future.

How You Can Help

Children are often the most vulnerable in the face of war or disaster. Your gift to our Syria Crisis Response will help us reach more kids who are suffering through the Syrian conflict. Donate today.