5 ways to help the victims of the Syrian chemical attack, which is beyond horrifying

Since most of us are so far removed from it, it can be hard to know what to do to help civilians in Syria, who are currently living through an impossible, violent reality. Over the weekend, dozens suffocated to death in a chemical attack in the rebel-held suburb of Douma, which is just east of Damascus. And according to the New York Times, it was likely perpetrated by the Syrian government, led by President Bashar al-Assad, which is incomprehensible. If you’ve been watching the news and feel a little hopeless about the situation, there are actually tons of ways to help the victims of the Syrian chemical attack this weekend by donating to organizations on the ground that know what the people most need.

Rescue workers posted pictures of lifeless Syrian civilians killed in the attack and estimate that the death toll is anywhere from 40 to 70 people. However, others put the death toll at around 150, according to the BBC. The images are brutal, with most of the bodies sprawled out in their homes with white foam coming out of their mouths, indicating a chemical attack. The Syrian American Medical Society wrote in a statement calling for international attention:

"...amidst continuous bombardment of residential neighborhoods in the city of Douma, more than 500 cases — the majority of whom are women and children —were brought to local medical centers with symptoms indicative of exposure to a chemical agent. Patients have shown signs of respiratory distress, central cyanosis, excessive oral foaming, corneal burns, and the emission of chlorine-like odor."

The statement continued confirmed that there were “43 casualties with similar clinical symptoms of excessive oral foaming, cyanosis, and corneal burns. Civil Defense volunteers were unable to evacuate the bodies due to the intensity of the odor and the lack of protective equipment.”

The chemical attack seemed to have an effect on the rebels who had overtaken the town. On Sunday, they agreed to relinquish their control of the area and be bussed to another region. That means thousands of rebel fighters and their families will soon be up north. Right now, foreign media and aid can’t get into Douma, which means those in the clinics are being treated with the bare minimum of supplies. It also means that the Syrian government is denying the attack altogether.

Assad, along with his allies in Russia and Iran, has denied being involved with the chemical attack and called the allegations “bogus,” according to CNN. However, the rest of the international community has responded by scolding Assad, such as the British Foreign Office, which has called for an investigation into the attack to see if chemical weapons were really used.

Donald Trump said that a decision would be made this week about possible military action on the part of the U.S., as reported by Reuters. The U.S. Department of State issued a statement saying that the “regime’s history of using chemical weapons against its own people in not in dispute. Russia ultimately bears responsibility for the brutal targeting of countless Syrians with chemical weapons.” While Trump and other world leaders decide the best course of action, the lives of civilians there hang in the balance.

Here’s what you can do to help them:

1The White Helmets


The White Helmets are officially recognized by the United Nations as the Syrian Civil Defense, a volunteer organization. They wear white helmets, hence their name, and are unarmed. They mostly occupy themselves with doing search and rescue after barrel bombings to remove civilians from the rubble and bring them to medical clinics. They are just regular people who decided to not join the seven-year civil war and instead do humanitarian work. The organization is especially necessary since often, foreign aid is either blocked or delayed in rebel-held areas and the government is often the one dropping barrel bombs. The White Helmets are civilians who have taken it upon themselves to help their people from the inside. The website explains:

"As well as saving lives the White Helmets deliver public services to nearly 7 million people, including reconnecting electrical cables, providing safety information to children and securing buildings. They are the largest civil society organization operating in areas outside of government control, and their actions provide hope for millions."

You can donate to them directly through their website, follow them on Twitter (though there are often very graphic images of the war accompanying tweets), and tell all of your friends to watch the 40-minute, 2017 Academy Award winning documentary about them on Netflix, The White Helmets.

2Syrian American Medical Society Foundation

The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) works closely with the White Helmets as a non-profit, non-political medical relief organization. They treat everyone they can and often are the first to release statements regarding bombings and chemical attacks like the ones this weekend in East Ghouta. They, along with the White Helmets, are the first responders. SAMS not only treats trauma victims, but cares for Syrians with chronics illnesses like diabetes and polio, they also deliver babies, provide dental care, and support rescue workers with mental health counseling and training.

3Doctors Without Borders

Doctors Without Borders or Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is all over the world, including Syria. Because of the amount of conflict, they have a small presence in East Ghouta, but are present. They also assist in transport throughout the region and help supply medical centers. It explained in March on its website:

"The remaining pre-positioned MSF medical stock, based in the southern enclave of eastern Ghouta, is now in an area under Syrian government control. Ongoing bombing and shelling, and the speed of the military advance, have made it extremely difficult to distribute the remaining medical items to facilities still in besieged areas, where little or no medical supply is permitted to enter by the Syrian government. With significantly reduced medical support capacity, we continue to offer what technical and moral support we can to the medics struggling to maintain some lifesaving medical care in unimaginably awful circumstances."

You can donate directly to them via their website.

4Save The Children


Save the Children has a special donation page just to help Syrian children (though ten percent of the donation goes to the general Save the Children fund). With all the bombings over the course of the past seven years, Save the Children explains that the war is redefining childhood. Kids who used to go to school or play or have books to read are living in rubble and face violence every single day. Save the Children provides them with support and supplies, when they can get into Syria, and in refugee camps. It explains its work on its website:

"Inside Syria, we're on the ground, ensuring children are safe, cared for and learning. We're providing lifesaving services and supplies. We're tending to children's physical and psychological needs. And we're setting up safe places for children in crisis to learn and play, critical for child development. Despite extreme humanitarian challenges, we've helped 2.5 million people in Syria, including 1.7 million children. We're also working to draw the world's attention to this crisis, ensuring children's voices are heard and their issues given urgent priority, as we continue to call for immediate humanitarian access and a peaceful resolution to this conflict."

5International Rescue Committee

The IRC has a large presence in Syria and the surrounding areas. They do many things, such as provide humanitarian aide to people, give immediate cash assistance to displaced families, provide safe spaces for women and children who have been abused, operate health clinics, and so much more. They work with other humanitarian groups in Jordan and Syria to best support the diaspora, with tailored help for each region. The organization writes on its website:

"In 2017, some 750 IRC workers helped more than 1.1 million Syrians inside their country. This included 860,000 people treated in around 50 IRC-supported clinics and mobile health teams, helping over 6,000 women and girls — many survivors of assault and abuse — find safety and support. The IRC also supported close to 9,000 Syrians to get vital documents to move more freely and access services, as well as provided some 27,000 people in Syria with job training and cash or vouchers to help them buy food and other essential items for their families."

You can donate to the organization from its website. Syria can feel so far away, but these organizations on the ground in Syria every single day helping people. And they can definitely use your help.