Today is an important marker: it is ten years since the Syrian conflict began. It’s a grim milestone and a painful reminder of the work still to be done towards a better future for Syrians.
One of the things that scares me most is that a fractured Syria, where people risk being bombed, killed or pushed to the edge by poverty has become the norm. No one is surprised by the images we see from Syria now, they are accepted as ‘the way it is’. I do not believe we should accept this – indeed we must not – because it does a great disservice to millions of people who deserve so much more.
In her article published by Chatham House, Lina Sinjab refers to “Syria’s darkest hour”. This is now. The one piece of hope the article signals is the work of Civil Society organisations who are “still proactive and doing impressive work providing humanitarian assistance and lobbying the international community.” We know we cannot solve all the challenges faced by Syria, but we can respond to the needs of thousands of Syrians each year. By working with local Syrian organisations like SAWA, SAMS, Syria Civil Defence and Maram, which know their communities better than anyone, we can provide humanitarian assistance, but that is not all. These programmes also provide employment for Syrian professionals, they provide a stable environment for children to learn, they contribute to the stability of local communities and, above all, they foster hope.
With the help of our generous donors, since 2012 we have given over 180,000 Syrians access to healthcare and education. Some who particularly stick in my mind are Maryam, Ibrahim, Fatima and Rayan. These people, and the thousands like them, are the reason why we cannot accept that the images we see from Syria are just ‘the way it is’. Their courage and determination prove that there is hope for a better future despite the challenges.
We will do everything we can to make that hope a reality over the coming years. While I wish there was no longer a need for Hands Up’s work, there is so much more to do.