According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the number of people fleeing war, conflict and persecution exceeded 80 million worldwide in 2020, the highest level seen in its 70 years of existence. “For people forced to flee, COVID-19 … has disrupted every aspect of human life and severely worsened existing challenges for the forcibly displaced and stateless.”
Two thirds of all refugees and displaced people originate from just five countries – with Syria topping the list by an enormous margin – Syria (6.9 million), Venezuela (3.7 million), Afghanistan (2.7 million), South Sudan (2.3 million) and Myanmar (1 million).
The Syrian Civil War began in 2011 when President Bashar al-Assad succeeded his father, Hafez, after his death. Even before the war began, many Syrians criticized the regime due to high unemployment, corruption and a lack of political freedom. In March 2011, pro-democracy demonstrations erupted in the southern city of Deraa, inspired by the “Arab Spring” in neighboring countries. When the government used deadly force to crush the dissent, protests demanding the president’s resignation erupted nationwide.
The unrest spread, crackdowns intensified, and violence rapidly escalated into civil war. Although exact death tolls vary depending on the source, The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group with a network of sources on the ground, had documented the deaths of 367,965 people by December 2018. The figure did not include 192,035 people who it stated were missing and presumed dead.
In addition to the hundreds of thousands of deaths, the war has left 1.5 million people with permanent disabilities, including 86,000 who have lost limbs. And along with the 6.9 million who have fled the country, another 6.2 million Syrians are internally displaced, which equate to approximately 55% of Syrians being uprooted from their homes.
What can be done to help those in need? Based on rankings from Charity Navigator, here are the top five non-profits you can support to aid in the Syrian refugee cataclysm.