As the Aleppo Situation Worsens, Now is the Time to Give

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.

Original Post:

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.

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Holly Whitman is a writer and journalist based in Washington DC. She loves to share her thoughts on the intersection of politics and culture, and writes on everything from feminism and human rights to climate change and technology.

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30 thoughts on “As the Aleppo Situation Worsens, Now is the Time to Give

  1. It’s situations like these that make child slavery look like a good option (literally: where do you think the kids come from?)
    Should you wish to keep children out of situations like this, and get some shiny gifts for your relatives, I can provide links.

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      • Agreed.

        If one is going to advocate for child slavery, the least she could do is frame it in terms of American competitiveness, traditional family values, privity of contract and consumer choice.

        Just putting it out there so baldly, so unadorned, is frankly disgusting.

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      • Does it help to know the children chose slavery over American Detention Camps?

        I’m very much a fan of charity that is monetarily supported by free trade — if you’re not interested in supporting child slavery (and to be fair, I’m more than a bit on the fence about it), I can suggest some quality water filters (removing chlorine from your water makes your hair look and feel better), or even a portable grill whose design keeps people from burning down their homes with corncobs.

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        • Burt,
          I think that exposing the supply lines for common goods that we buy is a good thing.
          People have written entire posts here about favoring sweatshops.

          Simply because I happen to know a business owner, and thus can say affirmatively “yes, this one uses child labor” — It brings something to light that we don’t always want to think about.
          [If you want to see the adcopy for the glassware, it is completely hilarious how “green and liberal and progressive” it is.]

          People have posted tons about Mexican farm labor on this site — and Damon’s point (made on another thread) about the risk of injury to working children (even in America!) is well taken.

          I can sit here and ask — what should we do about these children? I consider it completely unacceptable to have them living out on the streets, stealing from the “righteous” — or, as is significantly more likely, put to work in the sex trade.

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          • I’ve cautioned others that your first comment is deserving of a charitable interpretation, and offered a lens through which I’ve viewed it so that they can do so themselves.

            You should, however, take the fact that you immediately drew calls for suspension with the comment, and the fact that an editor had to step in and independently offer an interpretative lens, as a caution. The caution should be that you articulated yourself carelessly previously, and a bit of introspection about “How might I avoid that in the future?”

            This comment is much more thoughtful, and I thank you for it.

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            • Indeed, I am reacting in part to the carelessness of Kim’s comment; if you are going to talk about something as important as child slavery, then for Pete’s sake make it clear what you mean. Words have consequences, and intent is not the only factor in determining responsibility for those consequences, it maybe not even be the most important in cases such as these.

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              • joke,
                This is something that I’ve referenced before around here — sorry if I didn’t completely flesh out what I was talking about.

                It’s a glass factory down in Mexico that employs kids starting roughly at the age of twelve. As they’re kids, they do have a higher rate of injury (and with a glass factory that means burns). I’m really not sure I feel comfortable with the money I’ve spent on “shiny things” — but at least I didn’t buy any of the tricky glasswork that is more likely to cause injuries.

                It’s still a hell of a lot better than having them in the sex trade.

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          • War on the Leventine plain is inherently high-intensity, the cycle of violence naturally escalates to that point. The Kurds and Alawites might have the option of retreating to defensible holdfasts but the bulk of the population has to either fight it out to the finish or have a ceasefire. Low intensity conflict a la FARC isn’t an option for them.

            Outside powers can prop up the losers to keep it going, but that’s a recipe for a 5-10 year war, not a 40 year one like FARC. The meatgrinder of a hot war loses to many men and puts to much strain on your political-economic system to keep going longer than that. Assad is already scraping at the bottom of his man-power barrel, the time line in which he can sustain even the reduced pace of operations he’s been running over the past half-year is relatively short.

            Its either a frozen conflict on a seize-fire line or total victory for one side in the bulk of Syria, the ground doesn’t allow for a long-term low-intensity conflict (unlike to the north of them, where the mountains allow the Kurds and Turks to snipe at each other for endless decades).

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            • Specifically to the foreign money issue, the outside money stops matter if you run out of bodies. The lives of military aged males starts out cheap in these things but gets expensive towards the end. It also doesn’t take that many casualties as a proportion of availible manpower before that manpower won’t fight except for local defense. Low-intensity conflict can persist because the casualties are low enough to be replaced by the fresh blood growing up into the age cohort. Hot wars of taking and losing ground are too much of a meat grinder for that.

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            • Does this level of tactical-to-strategic lensing take into account urbanized areas? Lessons learned in Iraq suggest that these are denser to penetrate, harder to control, and deadlier for infantry than either deep wetlands or rugged mountains. There are dozens of densely urbanized areas in Syria.

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              • Urban areas don’t generate their own supplies to live off of and have the disadvantage of giving away your general location to the enemy (cities are obvious places to be). You can hole up in an urban area (they provide excellent cover) for a period of time, but you can’t stay there indefinately.

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  2. Thanks to , again, for raising this matter even before Aleppo was re-taken by the Assad government. Thanks also to for identifying the new charity and for getting the post up in a special place.

    Longtime contributor and site alumnus once opined that among the truest acts of charity is to give to someone very different from oneself facing problems very different from what one fears for oneself. We here in the generally peaceful West acutely feel the religous and cultural differences between ourselves and the large majority of people who live in this area of the world; we are blessed to not face imminent violence at the hands of our own state nor indeed all that much violence at all. But the people who have moved into Aleppo did so seeking to find a way to avoid the violence, seeking a place where they could co-exist notwithstanding political and religious differences, and now this has been taken from them along with a once-lovely city. The similarities now seem to be so much more powerful than the differences.

    Please find a place to be charitable and help these fellow humans during this, their darkest hour.

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    • (FWIW, it’s not a new charity – one that Holly already mentioned – I just panicked the other day and asked Will how we could get that charity under people’s noses at this exact time, since they are both reliable and still on the ground, just outside Aleppo, saving lives. Will wisely remembered this post existed and re-upped the post.)

      It tears me up inside to see a state that was once one of the most peaceful, harmonious places in the Middle East turned into one of the most war-torn and miserable places on the planet. Students that I serve used to go to Syria to work after college without worrying about their safety, but just because Damascus or wherever else was such a cool place to live and they wanted to learn from the people who lived there. And I’ve been doing my job for *less than a decade*.

      Any charity that saves lives, and does so efficiently and at personal risk, is worth our support. I hope as many of these folks as possible find a path to safety, and I am grateful that, in whatever small way, we actually *can* help some of them survive.

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  3. Completely agree with the above post, there is huge count of people living in poverty. I was unaware of the fact until I had a discussion with my friend on people living in poverty and he suggested me to visit this page. I used to believe that people are poor because of their bad habits and lack of interest in working and earning money. But I found there are many reasons for poverty like natural disasters, disabilities, health issues and insufficient education for the good job. I greatly appreciate the NGO’s working for such people and improving their livelihood by educating them.

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