Imagine seeing a friend killed or your home destroyed. Imagine fleeing your own neighborhood and arriving in a country you’ve never been to. Imagine living in a stranger’s house, sharing one room with 20 others, or sitting in a dark cave with 50 students and a teacher you have never met before. This is life for many of the children living through the conflict in Syria. They have no school. They have little water. They are hungry, and they are cold. More than two million Syrian children are in need of humanitarian assistance.
A girl, carrying jerrycans of water, walks past a pile of debris on a street in Aleppo, Syria. The city, which has been a site of prolonged fighting during the conflict, is experiencing frequent interruptions in its water supply. ©UNICEF/NYHQ2012-1293/Alessio RomenziEarlier today, UNICEF USA hosted a Google+ Hangout with three UNICEF staff members who have been on the ground in Syria: Ted Chaiban, Director of Emergency Programs for UNICEF; Simon Ingram, head of UNICEF communications in the Middle East and North Africa, participating from Jordan; and Bastien Vigneau, Senior Emergency Officer for UNICEF's Middle East and Northern Africa Regional Office, participating from Syria. The Hangout was moderated by UNICEF USA’s Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Lisa Benenson. The three men vividly described what they've seen in Syria, and what more needs to be done. Since the crisis began 22 months ago, UNICEF has been active in Syria and surrounding countries, providing emergency relief to a growing group that now numbers some 4 million people. The focus has been meeting children’s most urgent needs—bringing clean water to 10 million people, vaccinating 1.5 million children against measles and polio, setting up schools and child-friendly spaces. The influx of refugees in neighboring countries is staggering: 5,000 people a day are crossing borders, 75% of them are women and children. Many end up in poor communities that need support to host these refugees. Now imagine what would happen if UNICEF could no longer do its work. UNICEF has appealed for $220 million to help Syria's children, but only 20% of this amount has been received. Without further funding, UNICEF may not be able to carry out its second immunization campaign. Water and sanitation systems will be difficult to maintain. More children will die from waterborne diseases. Providing shelter, water, toilets, and schools to the growing stream of refugees will be impossible. The humanitarian crisis in Syria is truly massive. But the children and families of Syria are resilient. As Bastien Vigneau describes it, “Come what may, they will rebuild their country. We help children envision the kind of country they see in their future." The people of Syria are doing everything they can to survive. It is up to us to help them do those things they can’t. To watch the entire Google+ Hangout, visit our YouTube channel. To support UNICEF's emergency relief efforts for children affected by the crisis in Syria, visit our Syria donation page.