Seeing harrowing images from war zones in Syria and Iraq can make people feel at a loss of how to help, but there are ways Australians can lend a hand.
There are dozens of organisations already working within and around the war-torn cities of Aleppo and Mosul.
We asked workers from Red Cross and World Vision what Australians can do.
What is being done to help people in Syria?
Australian Red Cross Disaster and Crisis Response Manager Jess Letch said they have been working in Syria for the past five years and have raised more than $2 million from Australians to buy a range of items.
“They include baby kits, so the kind of nappies and baby clothes and infant formula that you might need to keep a baby going during the conflict … [and] food parcels to help feed family for a month,” she said.
Can I donate food and clothing to the cause?
You can, but the costs of shipping goods to these regions outweighs the benefits.
So it’s best to just send a monetary donation.
She said it was also the best way to support local businesses and cut down the cost of shipping.
“We want to support the local businesses … and especially for personal items and food items they want things that are familiar to them,” Ms Letch said.
“Even a toothbrush or toothpaste … and soap, things like that are very personal.”
Donations are often tax-deductible.
What do people in Syria need the most?
Items for winter.
The coldest month of the year is January, when temperatures sit at around 7 degrees Celsius.
It means shelter, cooking items and warm clothes are a priority.
“We have provided winterisation kits so that’s basic items like mattresses and blankets and stoves so people can get through cold winters when they are living in difficult circumstances,” she said.
She said they also provide hygiene kits (like the one pictured in the top image) which include basic items like soap, toilet paper, a toothbrush and toothpaste with the aim to keep people free from disease or illness.
What is being done to help people in Mosul?
Communications specialist with World Vision in northern Iraq Kayla Robertson said the passage of aid to Mosul was increasingly difficult, so aid organisations work to meet the needs of those who have fled.
“The sheer scale of the humanitarian need after years of conflict is immense,” she said.
“For instance, in Iraq nearly 70,000 people have been displaced since the operation to retake Mosul began last month.
“That’s on top of another 3.3 million people who were already displaced in the country, half of which are children.”
What do people in Mosul need?
The very basics.
“Families are fleeing the Mosul area with little but the clothes on their backs,” she said.
“They’re arriving at camps hungry, thirsty and exhausted; some of the children are terrified, having been exposed to violent events, such as airstrikes and gunfire.
“Our teams are meeting their most pressing needs with food, fresh drinking water, stoves, mats for warmth and hygiene kits filled with toothbrushes, soap and towels.”
What about the kids?
World Vision is establishing child-friendly spaces, which are safe places for children where they can go and play games and have fun with other children under the supervision of trained child protection staff.
“But this is just the beginning — we’re looking at long-term programming, as it’s highly unlikely that people will be able to return home to Mosul any time soon,” she said.
So how can Australians help?
Here are some of the organisations helping people in the region:
- UNHCR runs camps for people displaced in Syria and Iraq, has provided shelter, blankets, heating stoves and aid items to more than 2.3 million people. Since conflict began, Australia for UNHCR has raised $10.8 million to close UNHCR’s funding gap in Syria
- UNICEF has been providing Syria’s children shelter, nutrition, clean water and sanitisation, temporary learning spaces and psychosocial services. In Mosul they are on the ground delivering emergency supplies and plan to reach 784,000 people within Mosul and fleeing the city
- Red Cross donations reach 5 million Syrians each month with food, water, first aid, hygiene kits, blankets and cash grants
- World Vision are providing food, clean water, sanitation, health care and winter essentials directly to people in Syria. It’s also helping displaced Syrians in Lebanon and Jordan. In Iraq, they are working to meet the needs of those fleeing Mosul
- In Syria, Save the Children are also providing food, clean water, medicines and shelter. It’s supporting schools and teachers to ensure children are able to continue their education. In Mosul, they are providing winter clothes, food and water
- CARE Australia teams have prepared for the crisis in Mosul, prepositioning water containers and other relief supplies and are providing equipment and nutrition supplements for maternal health clinics in northern Iraq. In Syria, they are delivering emergency aid, shelter kits and food parcels to displaced families in areas under siege
- Medecins Sans Frontieres Australia (Doctors Without Borders) operates medical facilities inside Syria, as well as directly supporting more than 150 medical structures throughout the country
- Oxfam is on the ground in Syria and in Jordan and Lebanon providing emergency assistance for Syrians and to those fleeing Mosul in Iraq
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
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