News / Middle East

Aid Groups Face Daunting Task Helping Syrians

Aid Groups Face Daunting Task to Help Syriansi
December 19, 2013 2:32 AM
Aid organizations are facing increasing challenges as the humanitarian crisis in Syria worsens and millions of Syrians face hunger, disease and winter weather. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports from Washington.
Meredith Buel
Aid organizations are facing increasing challenges as the humanitarian crisis in Syria worsens and millions of Syrians face hunger, disease and winter weather. 

Many Syrians continue to flee their country and the fierce fighting of its civil war.

Many hold their children.  Others bring only the belongings they can carry on their backs.

Refugees like Muteea Talaa are desperate.

"God helped me to reach this point. We were crying because of hunger, my grandsons were crying because there was no food, we suffered a lot and my disabled son has suffered a lot," said Talaa.

Now, rebels say the government is dropping barrel bombs on heavily populated cities like Aleppo.

The indiscriminate bombing is forcing more and more civilians to flee their homes, many ending up in makeshift camps in need of assistance.

Adnan Abdulrahman is one of them.

"I hope that we receive help to get toilet facilities, bathrooms, water. We don't have electricity either," said Abdulrahman.

One third of Syria’s pre-war population of 23 million has been displaced, with 2.3 million now refugees in other countries.

Nancy Lindborg is in charge of humanitarian assistance at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

“The Syria crisis is probably one of the most complicated and most difficult and certainly the largest that we are facing globally," said Lindborg.

The United Nations estimates that more than nine million people in Syria need humanitarian aid.  

The U.S. is the largest aid donor. But because of intense fighting in and around some key cities, supplies cannot be delivered.

Again, Nancy Lindborg:

“There are about 250,000 people who are in cities that are under siege by the Syrian regime, and we cannot reach them with food, with winter supplies or with medical help," she said.

And now the weather has become an enemy.  The first winter storm in the region pushed temperatures below zero.

Thousands of Syrians will spend the winter in tents, often with only a plastic sheet covering the ground.

Um Abdullha Najia and her family have been living in a small tent for months.

"As you can see, seven people are living in this small tent. It is our kitchen, our bathroom, our showers, our living room, everything is inside this tent. But the situation is worse outside," said Najia.

And now, health officials are concerned about an outbreak of polio in Syria.  They say a vaccination campaign is being hampered by the war.

Officials say the paralyzing disease underscores the type of humanitarian threats that emerge in conflict zones and there is fear it could become an epidemic.

“We are seeing development gains inside Syria being rolled back by 35 years, including the reemergence of these kinds of diseases," said Lindborg.

Lindborg says the humanitarian crisis in Syria and neighboring countries is getting worse with the onset of winter.

You May Like

Photogallery Belgian Security Measures Foreshadow New Normal for Europe

Rising threat of terrorism, disaffected Muslim populations and open borders, along with refugee, migrant crisis, are creating perfect storm for Europe, which some analysts fear continent is ill-suited to weather

Competing Claims of Responsibility for Mali Hotel Attack

Malian authorities ask public for help in identifying gunmen killed in attack, amid conflicting claims of responsibility from multiple jihadist groups active in the country

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs