Developing Syria's New Humanitarians

Empowering Local Responders with Localized Online Training Support
Jan 21, 2019 9:15 AM ET

“The worst man-made disaster the world has seen since World War II.”  That’s how the United Nations human rights chief has described the ongoing conflict in Syria. The response from international NGOs has been swift, providing food, healthcare, and temporary shelter to the millions of Syrians affected by the conflict, but the challenges these aid organizations face getting humanitarian assistance to those in need have grown more extreme.

Aid workers have been unable to reach certain parts of the country to even begin to assess the needs there. In other locations, foreign aid workers have been caught in the cross-fire or become targets themselves. As a result, local community members and start-up Syrian relief groups are leading much of the immediate response and recovery work in their own communities, often at great personal risk to themselves.

Though these local aid workers have a strong desire to help, few have access to formal humanitarian training. They are engineers who now find themselves managing a shelter; community members conducting door-to-door needs assessments; volunteers teaching in schools; and surgeons working as general practitioners. In extreme cases, midwives and dentists are performing life-saving surgeries.

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