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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.