Complexity of Conflict Leaves Donors Wary of Aiding Syrians


*When an earthquake killed 150,000 people in Haiti in 2010, private individuals donated $20 million to the international aid group Mercy Corps to help victims, most of it within weeks of the disaster. During three years of turmoil in Syria that have produced a similar death toll, the organization has collected just $2 million for Syrians.

The pattern bears out across aid agencies. World Vision, the Christian relief group, has collected $1.6 million in private donations for Syria, a tenth of the $16 million it raised for victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.*

Aid experts say that the conflict is so complex and intractable, the details of its brutality so nightmarish, that it is difficult for people to wrap their minds around it all.

An array of regional players have turned the war into a proxy war that has forced nine million people from their homes. Even here, in and around the relatively secure and functioning Syrian capital, displaced families crowd into hotels long bereft of tourists. Within a few minutes’ drive of downtown lie areas that have been cut off from regular food supplies for a year.

The meager amount of donations is blamed, in part, on a generalized fear of Muslims, which is widespread in the US and Europe. There is a perception that “they are all bad guys” who don’t deserve help.


I think an earthquake is different to a civil war in that you know the earthquake money will do some good whereas people fear that the money going to a civil war will end up in the wrong hands and won’t get to those who need it.

When people see young children dying I don’t think they choose whether to help or not due to religion.


Works for me.


I abstain from donating aid in this because I cannot be even more than 50% sure it will somehow benefit the Al-Qaeda terrorist “rebels”.


I think this uncertainty as to where the money would go is the very heart of the problem. No one wants to see people die or be displaced, but with the little amount of money available to alms giving many will find greater certainty in helping the Philippines.


Even the American state department, with all it’s information sources is having a hard time figuring out who’s who in that mess. Civil Wars are usually brutal (more soldiers were killed in the American civil war,than all it’s other wars combined); quagmires of shifting loyalties, and it’s almost impossible to decide who has a moral edge, if any. Read about the Spanish civil war, atrocities all round, who was right and who was wrong decided by which perspective is used.

I strongly believe that third parties should stay out if internal conflicts, societies must ultimately decide their own destiny. How would Americans have reacted if the south had been supported militarily by foreign powers? How would the country be different if one side won because of outside interference? Sometimes all one can do is pray.


Those are good points, and I have felt the same way. Do you think aid agencies are capable of reassuring people that they run their relief programs, and maintain good control over them?

Supporting one side or the other in this conflict seems very dicey. However, most Syrians are not involved in the conflict and millions of them have been caught in the middle. Is it possible to identify these innocent civilians? For example, would a program serving a refugee camp in Jordan be considered acceptable?


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