It was a recent gloomy Sunday morning when people began lining up outside the bannered tents. An ocean of people crowded the cramped space in hopes of getting food as the Zakat Foundation of America (ZF) distribution center opened up for the day.
Since March 2011 ZF has provided over $8 million in aid to the people of Syria. ZF COO, Safaa Zarzour, and Syrian program coordinator Noura Almasri recently visited several refugee camps, homes, and neighboring countries where many displaced Syrians are living. More than 40 volunteers assisted in the distribution of needed supplies. ZF is working diligently on the ground in Syria and in the surrounding refugee camps. Several of the ongoing projects include food distributions, family sponsorships and providing necessary medical supplies to nearby clinics.
“There is so much more that needs to be done,” Safaa Zarzour stated. “There are many families still in dire need of assistance.”
A majority of ZF’s efforts have been concentrated in Al-Qah, Kilis and Atmeh refugee camps. “It’s a city full of tents,” Mr. Zarzour said. “The amount of human tragedy is unbelievable.”
The average person in a refugee camp is living on one loaf of bread per day at most. Many are becoming malnourished, especially children. The food packages distributed by ZF include non-perishables such as rice, macaroni, and flour. One box of food is sufficient for a family for one month. “It was almost as though we (ZF) were passing out gold,” Mr. Zarzour said. “They were so grateful for the smallest act of kindness.”
As in most violent upheavals, women and children tend to be the ones suffering the most. “The stories are countless,” Noura Almasri said. “There are so many orphans it is absolutely unbelievable. Many children are just roaming the streets. They are unable to attend school due to the unsafe environment.”
Noura recalled the story of an 18-year-old Syrian woman who was out looking for work and was shot by a sniper. She is now paralyzed and unable to afford her surgery. After receiving the news that she would not walk again, her husband left her. Currently she lives in Kilis and is being taken care of by her mother and three younger sisters. ZF has sponsored her family and are taking care of her medical expenses.
Syrians are still in desperate need of help. “Donations can help us deliver needed services to many people,” Mr. Zarzour said. “The effects of the Syrian conflict are going to be long-term and we need to implement programs that factor in sustainability. In order to do this work we need funds.”