The conflict in Syria has been going on for over four years, and during that time, it seems like the entire world has become desensitized to the plight of Syrian refugees. With millions displaced from their homes, this stands as among the worst humanitarian crises of recent decades—yet one that has roused remarkably few major funders to action, as we've reported often at IP. We can almost count on one hand the number of U.S. foundations that have given money to help Syrian refugees.
Earlier this year, António Guterres, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, addressed the international community, calling for more “solidarity and responsibility sharing” for the Syrian refugee crisis. Guterres also gave a dire warning: If the funding gap for Syrian refugees isn’t met, the UNHCR would fail to meet “even the most basic survival needs of millions of people over the coming six months.”
That funding gap still isn’t even close to being met. The current Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP), a consolidated leadership framework that addresses the needs of Syrian refugee host communities in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq, currently puts the funding shortfall at $3.5 billion.
Although many of us are still asking, “Where the hell is all the funding for Syrian refugees?” there was a modicum of recent good news relating to Syrian refugee children with the announcement of a new $20 million donation from Turkish philanthropist and businessman, Sezgin Baran Korkmaz.
Korkmaz’s $20 million was awarded to Relief International in support its five-year plan to provide humanitarian relief to children impacted by the ongoing conflict in Syria. In this regard, Kokmaz will team up with Relief International to build schools, establish health care facilities, and launch social impact projects specfically aimed at providing widespread humanitarian relief in the regions affected by the conflict. Relief International is a U.S.-based NGO dedicated to providing “emergency relief, rehabilitation, development assistance, and program services to vulnerable communities worldwide.”
Sezgin Baran Korkmaz is the founder and CEO of SBK Holding, a Turkish company that purchases distressed bank assets and invests in companies in dire financial straits with the goal of turning them around. Explaining his motivation to fund Syrian humanitarian relief, Korkmaz said,
I have lived through the crisis of not having basic life necessities like food and clothing. I, myself, was the recipient of kindness as a child, and I dream for a world where children do not need to suffer. I hope through this partnership, the people of this conflicted part of our world will be given a chance for dignity and prosperity.
So far, the only other major individual donor we've seen give to help Syrain refugees is Hamdi Ulukaya, the yogurt tycoon, who last year pledged $2 million.
According to the UNHCR, over 1 million Syrian children are now refugees. Eighty percent of those kids are under 11 years old and an estimated 3 million Syrian children have been forced out of school. Without access to education and increased psychosocial support, these children are at an increased risk of sexual exploitation, being used as slave labor, or being forced into early marriage.
Writer Ivana Hajzmanaova sums up the plight of Syrian refugee children with heartbreaking eloquence writing,
If the world does not act quickly, a generation of innocents will be sacrificed on the altar of war. They will become a lost generation, without hope, and without a future.
No one can predict when the Syrian conflict will end. What can be stated with near certainty, however, is that Syria’s long-term post-war recovery will depend heavily on its children. If international funding for Syrian refugees remains at its current dismal levels, the future outlook for the entire country is dismal at best and catastrophic at worst.