Americans Overwhelmingly Believe Syrians Deserve US Help

More than three-quarters (76 percent) of Americans responding to a poll on Syria said the U.S. government should help the 9.3 million Syrians in need of humanitarian aid as a result of the ongoing civil war.

Among those who said they are familiar with the Syrian conflict, 47 percent said that increased humanitarian aid is one way the U.S. can help. The same percentage also voted for increased diplomatic pressure. Thirteen percent voted for military action and 14 percent suggested some other way. Less than a quarter (24 percent) said the U.S. should not help in any way.

Other notable statistics from the survey, conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Christian humanitarian organization World Vision, Feb. 28-March 4, among 2,040 adults, showed that one in five, or 21 percent of American adults, admitted to not being at all familiar with the conflict.

"This conflict started off very small, and it coincided with a number of large disasters and global issues, so it's been easy for people to overlook it," Betsy Baldwin, program management officer for World Vision's humanitarian and emergency affairs team, told The Christian Post in a phone interview Thursday.

"I think the lack of knowledge ultimately affects [the situation]. Americans are very generous to people affected by disasters, and I think their lack of knowledge has caused them to give less. They don't feel like they can relate to people who are in that crisis, but the people who are, who do have knowledge, 76 percent said they wanted the U.S. to help in some way," she noted.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that 9.3 million Syrians, close to half of them children, are in need of humanitarian aid. The civil war between President Bashar Al Assad's forces and the rebel groups seeking to topple his rule has raged on for three years now, resulting in over 100,000 deaths and millions being forced to flee the country as refugees.

World Vision has been one of the humanitarian organizations helping more than 300,000 people in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan with water, sanitation services, household supplies and other necessities.

Baldwin, who has traveled to refugee camps in the region and spoken with refugees in Turkey and Lebanon, shared with CP that many Syrians are in a state of shock at what has happened to their country.

"The thing that we don't realize about Syria is that these people came from a very developed country. They had indoor plumbing and cars, and they went on vacations. They are highly educated, and for many of them, their overwhelming feeling is that they are in shock that the life they enjoyed is now gone," the program management officer explained, adding that the people don't see any prospects for how the crisis is going to be resolved.

"Overall they are discouraged, and concerned for their children, and what their lives will look like when they grow up."

Major U.N. peace talks in Geneva in February ended in failure, with world powers unable to find a way forward to peace between Syrian government representatives and rebel groups.

The U.N. Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic has criticized world powers for failing to take action and for allowing human rights abuses in Syria to continue on both sides with impunity.

Baldwin said that the political situation is highly complicated, and as a relief group, World Vision does not focus efforts on asking who is to blame for the crisis but on providing assistance to the people in need.

"We are most concerned with what are their needs now," she said.

Baldwin said she stands with those who voted in the poll for more humanitarian assistance.

"I think that the world powers need to use their influence to pressure for access to affected populations, affected Syrians. Also, we ultimately want a peaceful resolution to this conflict," she said.

"We need world leaders to continue to supply the funds for humanitarian assistance and to realize that we need sustained funding for the 9.8 million people who are affected in the conflict."

Conny Lenneberg, World Vision's regional leader for Middle East and Eastern Europe, said many people "turn away, sometimes purposely turning a blind eye to all that is happening."

"Although it's painful to see the reality, it's vital that we do so. An entire generation is depending on us," Lenneberg stated.

Troubling stories from refugee camps have also revealed that a "shocking" number of Syrian babies are being born with severe birth defects, due to vitamin deficiency as many women do not receive care until well into their pregnancies.

On Monday, World Vision published another report written by refugee children, revealing the financial insecurity, physical and verbal abuse and increasingly uncertain futures that they face.

"If I had the opportunity to address people in power around the world, I would say: 'Haven't you had enough of the destruction in Syria? Haven't you seen enough blood in Syria? Haven't you seen enough deaths in Syria? What else do you still need, to save us and bring us back to our country?' If I had a magic wand, I would erase all the destruction that happened in Syria or in any other country and draw instead the best and most beautiful thing for everyone," writes Hanadi, a 17-year-old Syrian refugee.

Lenneberg noted that while the children in Syria are doing their best to grow and develop in the midst of uncertainty, "soon, these children will be adults, responsible for rebuilding the country they love. They'll be asking us why we did not do more - in fact they are already are."

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