It’s been said many times that one death is a tragedy, but one million deaths is a statistic.
Once again, the saying was proved true when the image of a toddler’s body washed up in Turkey was published. The little boy was fleeing his war-torn home with his family, but tragically died at sea.
It has been named one of the most powerful images of the century, as it made the whole world sit up and take notice of the Syrian refugee crisis. It did what countless news reports had failed to do: causing moral outrage on a large scale and making many rethink their stance on refugees.
The Syrian Crisis
Syria is a country with a history stretching back hundreds of thousands of years – one of the most ancient civilisations on earth.
But by the close of the 20th Century, occupation by foreign powers, civil wars and political instability left hundreds of thousands dead. The countless refugees trying to leave Syria have been left vulnerable to extremists, who have seized power in cities and towns in many parts of the country.
Over 12 million Syrians have been affected by the crisis – half the population of Australia. A staggering 200,000 have been killed since 2011.
Millions are now homeless and helpless – with 50% of Syrians in dire need of humanitarian aid, making it one of the largest refugee crises the world has seen.
What does Oxfam do?
Oxfam is a global organisation working for the last 62 years to create lasting solutions to poverty and injustice. The organisation started out in 1942 as ‘Oxford Committee for Famine Relief’ in England, where it campaigned for food to be sent to starving women and children in enemy-occupied territory during the Second World War. Now, Oxfam works in 94 countries and assists over 20 million people every year.
Unlike some organisations which spend large amounts of their budget on advertising and promotion, 90% of what Oxfam receives goes straight to providing emergency responses. The other 10% is spent on fundraising and administrative costs.
In Syria, the organisation is helping those affected by the current crisis: Oxfam workers are stationed there as well as in neighbouring countries, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt. They provide emergency assistance including clean drinking water, food, blankets, stoves as well as hygiene and sanitation programs.
Importantly, Oxfam also provides much-needed legal advice to refugees, including their human rights, and connects people to medical, legal and support services.
You can read more about the help that Oxfam is providing here.
What is Medical Teams International?
Medical Teams International helps millions of people in 30 countries worldwide. It strives to keep overheads low so that the maximum possible amount of funding goes straight to the people who need it most.
With millions of displaced Syrian refugees living in basic or inadequate housing with little access to sanitation, there is a very real risk that the present outbreaks of cholera, acute watery diarrhoea, tuberculosis and measles will spread to epidemic proportions.
Medical Teams International is undertaking vital work in Syria to address the conditions, help to prevent them from spreading, and reduce mortality rates of refugees, especially women and children who are often the most vulnerable.
It not only works to provide much-needed medical treatment, dental care and humanitarian aid, but also engages in community based health education to help reduce the impact and spread of disease.
How can I help?
The image of the small toddler who drowned after his family risked everything for a better life has captured the hearts of people around the world.
But the real tragedy would be if the image failed to provoke change in our attitudes and actions towards refugees. There are many ways that each of us can help make a real difference to the lives of these desperate and vulnerable fellow humans.
Donations sent to Oxfam Australia are used to supply refugees with basic essentials. For example, $129 is enough to provide hygiene kits to three Syrian families in Lebanon. With $567, Oxfam can provide a blanket, mattress and pillow to seven refugee households of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
By donating to Medical Teams International, you can help make a real impact on the plight of some of the world’s most vulnerable people. Donations going to the Syrian Refugee crisis are providing much needed medical treatment for Syrian refugees who have fled their homes.
Sydney Criminal Lawyers has donated $1,900 to assist with the emergency situation in Syria – $500 to Oxfam, and $1,400 to Medical Team International.