Zakat Foundation and Syria’s Humanitarian Crisis

Zakat Foundation of America relief and refugee work in Syria predates the current crisis but has grown dramatically since March 2011, when the country exploded in civil war. Zakat Foundation has provided more than $10 million in aid and assistance to distraught Syrians inside and outside the country.

We operate or sponsor hospitals and medical clinics; refugee housing; schools, vocational training centers, and occupational courses; as well as other specialized programs that include psychological counseling and rehabilitation; winter clothing, blanket, and heat source dispersal; hygiene kit distribution; and a large bakery to feed refugees. Zakat Foundation and staff have assisted Syrian refugees in their dangerous migration to Europe and work inside Syria every year providing food baskets to families in Ramadan and toys and confectionary for children on the two Eid holidays.

Syria’s seven-year war has exacted a terrible human cost. More than half Syria’s ethnically and religiously diverse population of nearly 23 million in 2012 has suffered catastrophic losses. The war has internally displaced 6.3 million Syrians and turned another 5.6 million into refugees, with nearly half younger than 18. Two-thirds have fled to Turkey, its neighbor to the north. Another 29 percent have sought refuge in Lebanon to the east and Jordan to the west, with an estimated 5,000 new refugees streaming out of Syria every day.

The campaign to eradicate ISIL devastated a large swath of northern and eastern Syria. Together with conflict in Kurdish areas to the north and war between Syrian government loyalists and opposition forces in the south and west, violence has wiped out Syrian civil society, making Syria the “biggest humanitarian and refugee crisis of our time, a continuing cause of suffering for millions which should be garnering a groundswell of support around the world,” said Filippo Grandi, UNHCR High Commissioner.

Diverse communities call Syria home, including Arabs (19 million, or 90 percent), Kurds (2 million), Syrian Turkmen (0.756-1.5 million), Assyrians (0.9-1.2 million), and Armenians (100,000), with an added 1.8 million Iraqi refugees and 560,000 Palestinian refugees. About 87 percent of Syrians are Muslims – 74 percent Sunni and 13 percent Shia – with 2 million Alawite (Nusayri) Shia rising to dominate Syria’s now protested government and military in the 1960s and ‘70s. About 9 percent of Syrians make up one of the oldest and largest Christian populations in the region, while Druze account for 3 percent.

Historians consider Syria’s capital, Damascus, the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, dating back to 9,000 BC. UNESCO listed Damascus as a cultural World Heritage Site in 1979 and reclassified it in 2013 as a World Heritage Site in danger.

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Sources: UN Stats | UNESCO | World Bank

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