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Syria Crisis: 4 years with No End in Sight

A Syrian Red Crescent team delivers medical supplies.

For the past four years, violent conflict has upended the lives of families in Syria¬. Nearly half the population has fled their homes in search of safety: 3.3 million people have crossed into neighboring countries, while another 7.8 million remain displaced within Syria. The American Red Cross has contributed more than $2.5 million to address the serious humanitarian crisis.

As the needs of Syrians caught in the conflict continue to increase, so does the response of the Red Cross Red Crescent network. Often putting their lives at risk, volunteers traverse Syria and bordering countries to deliver critical aid to families.

The Syrian Arab Red Crescent’s (SARC) 3,000 volunteers navigate the deteriorating security situation in order to bring food, water, healthcare, hygiene items, and emotional support throughout the country. As the largest provider of humanitarian services in Syria, these brave volunteers are filling the gaps left behind by war: driving ambulances, baking bread for displaced people, mending water and sewage pipes. They run health clinics, provide nutrition services, and spent this past winter delivering cold-weather necessities to families facing frigid temperatures.

SARC’s assistance to vulnerable communities has more than tripled since the beginning of 2013, but it’s not been without personal cost. Since the beginning of the conflict, 40 SARC and seven Palestinian Red Crescent staff and volunteers have lost their lives while providing assistance to people in need. More than a dozen SARC volunteers have been detained with no information on their whereabouts.

Across the border in Lebanon, 1.1 million refugees from Syria live in towns and informal camps. The Lebanese Red Cross and Palestinian Red Crescent are running mobile clinics, providing emergency medical care to families, distributing cash, delivering food to refugees, and training people on first aid, hygiene awareness and various health topics.

Refugees, of course, are also helping one another through the crisis. Fourteen year-old Nejmeh, has been in Lebanon for two years. She has decided to hold math, science and English classes for children in the Ketermaya refugee camp. When the tent in which she was teaching was destroyed by rain, Nejmeh was not discouraged. She moved the class outside and diligently carried on lessons in the open air. “I want them to forget about their problems, and losing their loved ones,” declares Nejmeh.

Further south, more than 600,000 Syrians have sought refuge in Jordan. There, the Red Cross Red Crescent is providing relief supplies, shelter assistance, healthcare, and helping families separated by conflict to find one another. They are also distributing cash for the purchase of essential items like food, medicine, clothes, or rent—an effort for which the American Red Cross deployed a disaster specialist last summer. Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers deliver healthcare services from a prefabricated field hospital in Azraq refugee camp, where women like Hadeel, 20, are able to give birth in the presence of a doctor and midwives.

To the north, more than 1.6 million Syrians have fled to Turkey, where the Turkish Red Crescent has set up a mobile kitchen that feeds about 10,000 refugees every day. In addition to food, volunteers also provide remedial education to Syrian children and distribute relief items such as hygiene kits.

As the conflict rages on, Red Cross Red Crescent staff and volunteers personify the true meaning of humanitarianism. Their neutrality and impartiality allow them to work in areas that are off-limits to other organizations—granting them access to men, women, and children who need help the most. Four years on, the conflict does not look to be ending any time soon. The same can be said for the tireless and fearless work of Red Cross Red Crescent staff and volunteers on the ground.

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

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