ISTANBUL — An estimated 1.5 million Syrian children are now refugees — roughly the population of Manhattan. A new video produced by the U.N.’s Refugee Agency and the Hamdi Foundation draws attention to this statistic by showing scenes of an eerily deserted Manhattan: towering skyscrapers with no one to be found, Central Park void of runners or dog walkers, a normally bustling Times Square without a single soul. The video has a simple message: The world would notice if the island’s residents fled their homes.
Nearly four years into the savage war that has torn Syria apart, there is no end in sight to the bloodshed. Aid groups and Syria’s neighbors are struggling to support millions of displaced and desperate Syrians. At least 200,000 people have been killed in the conflict, according to some estimates.
Meanwhile, the Syrian regime continues to indiscriminately drop crude and deadly barrel bombs, often killing civilians. And the extremist group known as the Islamic State maintains its grasp on swaths of Iraq and Syria, taking hostages, carrying out grisly murders and even holding women as sex slaves.
On Monday, the U.N.’s top relief official, Valerie Amos, said that she had “run out of words” to explain the increasingly brutal nature of Syria’s war.
U.N. officials told The WorldPost in November that they feared the international community’s attention was too focused on the Islamic State — and not on the civilians whose lives are uprooted by the fighting. A month later, the U.N.’s World Food Programme announced it would have to slash its food voucher program to 1.7 million Syrians due to a major shortfall in funding.
But after a campaign launched online and on social media, led by the Twitter hashtag #ADollarALifeline, the WFP managed to secure more than enough funding — $80 million — in order to keep the food voucher program going this month.
In a similar effort to raise awareness, Save the Children released a haunting video last March showing what it would look like if Syria’s war came to London, with the message, “Just because it isn’t happening here, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.”