Donors, Relief Agencies Stepping Up For Refugee Crisis

September 11, 2015       Mark Hrywna      

The image of a little boy’s lifeless body on the Turkish shore last week grabbed the world’s attention. The ensuing reaction and media exposure apparently was enough to spur donors to give toward ending the Syrian refugee crisis, as relief agencies have reported spikes in online giving the past week.

Thousands of refugees and migrants have been fleeing the Middle East in what’s been described as the greatest refugee crisis since World War II, trying to reach Europe to escape the nearly five-year-old civil war in Syria, and ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Save the Children on Sept. 2 launched a Child Refugee Crisis Appeal aimed at helping support and protect homeless children and their families fleeing conflict, wars and persecution in the Middle East and Africa. The campaign has raised more than $800,000 through web, email, social media and mobile. In the first eight months of the year, the charity raised about $200,000 for its response, mostly for Syrian refugees in the Middle East.

Facebook has been the most engaged channel for Save the Children, with posts receiving five times more engagement than average, according to Brian Beirne, senior director of digital marketing. The Fairfield, Conn.-based charity expects to announce major corporate partnerships in the next week, possibly as early as Monday.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) saw a spike in online donations at the end of last week and over the weekend, according to Director of Marketing Molly Elliott.

MSF reported almost $820,000 in web donations within the past week, including some $178,000 on Sept. 3, in a time of year when it typically gets between $25,000 and $50,000 in a day. The New York City-based organization doesn’t proactively fundraise around specific crises.

Elliott said it’s difficult to compare the figures to last year since news about Ebola had a big influence on fundraising, starting in late August 2014. But compared to 2013, the online donations are about six times as much as was received via the web in 2013, when $136,000 was reported during the same time period.

Lutheran World Relief (LWR) reported an uptick in donations for Syria beginning Sept. 3. Some $13,000 has been received, designated for the response to Syria, including almost $5,000 this morning. Some 40 percent of online donations to LWR have been designated for Syria. The increase happened over a holiday weekend when people aren’t necessarily focused on philanthropic giving. Total online giving for this period last year was less than $10,000 for LWR.

LWR is shipping mission quilts, baby care kits and personal care kits to Serbia to distribute to refugees and migrants. The hand-sewn quilts are gathered and shipped overseas and donors can track the progress of their shipment via LWR’s quilt tracker. A shipment is en route to Europe this week. The Baltimore, Md.-based charity has provided more than $7 million in assistance to Syrian refugees, reaching more than 235,000 people in the past three years.

LWR also is supporting a coalition of more than 140 churches and faith-based organizations called ACT Alliance, which provides humanitarian aid to refugees in Greece, Hungary and Serbia. ACT members are providing hygiene items, winter coats and blankets, emergency shelter and psychosocial support in two temporary camps in Hungary.

“Every day, more and more traumatized children – including many who have seen their homes destroyed and their loved ones killed – are now streaming into Greece, Serbia and Hungary in hopes of ultimately finding safety and relief in Germany and other European countries,” Save the Children President and CEO Carolyn Miles said in a press release about the appeal. “The seemingly endless wars and conflict in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq have reached a tipping point – many families see no alternative but to flee,” she said.

Nearly half of the almost 20 million registered refugees globally – out of a total of 60 million displaced people – are children and youth, and their numbers will grow dramatically due to ongoing conflicts, especially in Syria, according to Save the Children. The Fairfield, Conn.-based aid agency has provided support for Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria in the last four years and now is exploring ways to protect refugee children as they move toward Europe.

Save the Children recently began a rapid needs assessment on the Greek islands of Lesvos, Chios and Kos, where thousands of refugees are living in informal camps. The charity will help coordinate a protecting environment for children in the camps while also setting up emergency shelters and distributing basic hygiene items and baby kits.