Five years later – The war in Syria

by Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach

It has been five long years since the terrible war in Syria started. More than 250,000 Syrians have been killed. More than half of Syria’s population have been displaced from their homes, and 13.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Alaa* and his family are just some of the many who have been affected. Originally from the city of Aleppo, the family fled the war two years ago; several generations of family members now live in a small, crowded space in Amman, Jordan. They are among more than 630,000 Syrian refugees now living in Jordan.

 This is a country of sensitivity with an additional content vetting and distribution protocol at this time. All photos from this country must be vetted per the protocol. To do so, send the photo(s)  you wish to use with captions as you suggest they appear to the Representative(s), Europe and the Middle East Area Director and U.S. Director of Communications. This process is very important. Thanks for your collaboration in this effort. Amman, Jordan (MCC Photo/Doug Hostetler)

Amman, Jordan. MCC Photo/Doug Hostetter

The family has received blankets, school kits and other forms of assistance through a project supported by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). Because they are unable to work in Jordan, the family relies on additional help from United Nations (U.N.) agencies for rent and other basic needs.

But the U.N. and others have had to cut back their assistance due to lack of funding. At a donors’ conference in London in February, the international community pledged more than $11 billion for the Syria crisis. But only a fraction of that money has actually come in.

At the conference, the U.S. government pledged an additional $600 million, on top of the $4 billion they have given since the crisis began in Syria. Now Congress must provide enough funding to meet that pledge, along with U.S. commitments to refugees in other parts of the world. This spring, members of Congress are deciding funding levels for key refugee-related accounts. It is critical that they hear strong support from their constituents for increasing this funding.

More fundamentally, the crisis will continue until the war in Syria ends. Negotiations are currently taking place in Geneva to bring about an end to the war. An initial “cessation of hostilities” agreement, reached in February, has reduced the levels of violence, a welcome development for civilians suffering so much from the war. But various armed actors continue to violate the agreement, raising questions as to how serious all sides are about reaching a negotiated agreement to finally bring an end to the war.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has pushed for these talks to happen, but U.S. support for the negotiations is mixed with continued U.S. military support for opposition forces. Members of Congress should be urged to support the peace talks, rather than pushing for more U.S. involvement in the war.

As we mark the sobering anniversary of the war, take three actions for Alaa’s family and all of our sisters and brothers from Syria. Pray for the people of Syria. Donate to MCC’s Syria and Iraq crisis response. And contact Congress to urge them to support an end to the Syria crisis.

* Last name withheld for security reasons.