Update (by Will Truman and Maribou):
As you have probably heard, the situation in Aleppo has worsened. There is a ceasefire in effect, but the devastation is manifest. So we wanted to re-up this post and ask anyone who can give to do so. It doesn’t have to be a large amount, but the more people who give the better. Our preferred organization is The International Rescue Committee, which has a rare four-star rating from Charity Navigator and a reputation for transparency and low administration costs.
Winter is here and as we decorate our homes, wear our favorite scarves and sip warm drinks, it’s easy to forget that in other parts of the world, war forces people to hide in their homes without food or warmth, listening to bombings and watching their friends and family members die. The clash in Aleppo has been deadly and terribly dangerous for both sides of the conflict.
With cold weather approaching, the condition is only going to get more unbearable for the people stuck in Aleppo. Many are without homes, heat, clothes and food. As we celebrate with our families and enjoy the blessings we have, it’s also important, now more than ever, to think about those in Aleppo and do what we can to help them.
Life in Aleppo
The Syrian civil war has been a crisis for years and the city of Aleppo a main battleground, resulting in too many deaths and injuries to count. The conflict splits the city between rebel and government control, catching the people of Aleppo in their crossfire.
For those of us who have never lived through a war, it’s hard to imagine what life is life right now in Aleppo. How do you even begin to wrap your head around a life that could be taken away at any moment? Constantly having to be on the lookout for bombs and guns? Watching friends die? Searching for food every day? It’s not an easy thing to think about.
For the civilians living in Aleppo, this is their reality. Many Aleppo citizens have fled the city, but countless others have stayed behind, fearing leaving more than staying, and are now trapped. Their only priority is staying alive. Devastatingly, for some people, staying alive isn’t worth the constant fear and suffering, so they resort to suicide.
To stay alive, these people have adopted strategies to give them the best chance of surviving through the constant airstrikes. They move to lower floors of buildings, the ones less likely to collapse if a bomb hits. Staying in rooms without windows and never having lights on is another survival strategy, in order to not bring attention to their home.
Hospitals have moved underground to try to attend to the injured in relative safety. They are filled with injured and dying civilians, with more injuries than there are people to take care of them. Because of the incredible number of hospitalized people, the hospitals end up being very unsanitary and unpleasant.
Schools have also moved underground, to give children at least a semblance of a normal life. However, getting to school is another story. For some families, the journey to school is just too dangerous. For those who can get to the schools, they get to learn from teachers who are local volunteers. This is the closest thing that the children in Aleppo have to a normal life. Some of the children don’t remember a time when their country wasn’t in a war.
The citizens in Aleppo have learned the sounds that certain planes make, are even able to distinguish between Syrian and Russian planes. Listening for planes is a key survival tactic, as a plane usually means a bomb, so taking shelter immediately is critical.
Finding food is getting more difficult each day. The economy in Aleppo is destroyed. Nobody has jobs anymore because it’s just too dangerous, and with people losing their homes with every bombing, more and more are on the streets. Food is sold on the black market, but the Syrian pound is losing value. Finding food or safe gas to cook with is a major struggle, which is creating health problems. People are starving to death on top of the violent deaths.
The situation is bleak, to say the least. At a time that should be filled with joyfulness and cheer, these people are fighting for their livelihood.
Called to Help
The conditions in Aleppo are nearly impossible to imagine. Many organizations are attempting to provide supplies and aid to the people in Aleppo, however, things aren’t so easy for them either. The severity of the airstrikes have made it hard for relief organizations to get into Aleppo, and many of the routes into the city have been cut off by either side of the battle.
In addition, there has been speculation that first responders and aid workers are being targeted through “double tap attacks”. A second set of bombs is often dropped after the first strike, when first responders are in the area trying to help those injured. Targeting the relief workers is a disheartening part of the conflict Aleppo. There have been discussions calling for a ceasefire to allow aid workers to get into the city to provide relief, but no promises have materialized and similar promises in the have been broken.
The Syrian government, joined by Russia, is trying to take away any hope that the civilians have by targeting the first responders and organized services that are in rebel-controlled areas. They have the mindset that if they can completely isolate the civilians and take away their resources, they will win. For this reason and others, people have accused the government of committing war crimes.
Unfortunately, much of the attention brought to Aleppo and Syria in general has come in the form of social media platforms that are mainly concerned about receiving likes and follows. While sharing information, videos, articles and pictures is a good way to spread awareness about the situation, realistically, sharing media doesn’t do anything to help the people affected. News media should also distribute information about these charities that are looking for support to help the suffering people of Aleppo.
How to Donate or Volunteer
Organizations have been in Aleppo since the violence has started, providing aid and any help they could. They are especially trying to provide help now, as winter is approaching. There are programs in place to provide food to families, set up health centers to provide relief and medicine to the injured and create safe spaces for suffering women. If the story of those suffering in Aleppo right now inspires you to help, there are many ways that you can make a difference.
The International Rescue Committee focuses on providing services to the people of Aleppo in order to help them regain control of their lives by supplying clothes and supplies, running protection services for children, supporting mobile clinics and offering counseling for women and girls. You can donate or volunteer to help with their relief efforts.
Syria Relief has been inside Aleppo since the beginning of the crisis, providing support for orphaned children, emergency medical relief and education services. Volunteering, donating money or items and attending fundraising events are some of the ways you can help Syria Relief.
ABWE International is a non-profit working to provide Syrian refugees with supplies. They also opened two schools, where more than 130 refugee children are able to access a regular education. Just $25 can provide food and water to refugees that need it most.
To aid Aleppo in preparing for winter, Islamic Relief USA has prepared supplies to bring to those in Aleppo and those that fled to neighboring countries. They also provide blankets, winter clothing and tarps to keep citizens protected from the cold. Islamic Relief USA focuses on providing clean water and other relief. There are many ways you can donate or volunteer for Islamic Relief USA.
Mercy-USA is yet another organization committed to helping those in Aleppo that could use your help. They are working to provide stoves and safe fuel to families for the winter, health clinics for new mothers and meat to hungry families.
These are just a few of the many organizations that are working to provide relief to the suffering people of Aleppo who desperately need the help. These organizations need supporters to donate and volunteer in order to continue their efforts. The people in Aleppo need your help more than ever and the holiday season is the perfect time to show your support and make a difference.
What Does the Future Look Like for Aleppo?
Since July 2012, Aleppo has remained a key battleground in the Syrian civil war and the effects are devastating. It’s hard to know when the violence will end and the city of Aleppo can begin to heal. Historically, Aleppo has been Syria’s largest city and the hub of finance and industry for the country. It’s one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities on the world.
With any luck, Aleppo will one day be a thriving city again. That journey won’t be an easy one, though. Buildings will need rebuilt, jobs restored, government recreated and spirits renewed. Hopefully, this will be the future for Aleppo. But first, the violence must end and the people must survive.
This holiday season, think about those people who once were enjoying a nice holiday with their families and are now in hiding with their families lives at risk each and every day. Do what you can to help them. Whether it be donating money, supplies or your time. Anything can help. Give the gift of life to somebody who desperately needs it in the city of Aleppo as they fight to stay alive during this time of intense violence and conflict.