*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.