Syrian migrants sending back millions in aid following devastating earthquake

Syrian migrants sending back millions in aid following devastating earthquake
Syrians living abroad have organised fundraising campaigns and are individually sending donations to their loved ones back home after last week's earthquake.
3 min read
16 February, 2023
Vigils and fundraising campaigns have taken place around the world for Syria and Turkey [Getty]

Syrian migrants have mobilised to help their country following last week’s powerful earthquake, sending financial aid to those desperately in need.

The death toll in Syria currently stands at over 5,700. Combined with Turkey – where the epicentre was – the number of deaths is nearing 42,000. Millions across the region have been affected, and the disaster has added to an already dire situation in northern Syria reeling from years of conflict, an economic crisis, and a recent cholera outbreak.

With a largely isolated regime and rebel-held zones not receiving enough assistance, Syrians abroad have tried filling the gap by sending aid.

Most Syrian migrants have "carried the wounds of their families and carried their burdens," Radi Saad of the White Helmets told The New Arab’s sister site, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

He said large donations had arrived from Syrians and non-Syrians abroad.

The White Helmets is Syria's Civil Defence in opposition-held areas. They announced an official mourning period earlier this week.

Saad expressed regret at the "abandonment" of the United Nations, decrying the UN's need to get the approval of the regime before sending aid to afflicted areas.

He thanked Syrian expats for stepping in at such a crucial time, saying "the assistance of Syrians at home and abroad is more than what we’ve received in international assistance."

One such campaign was organised by Syrians in Germany under the name "A small amount makes a difference." Germany hosts one of the largest Syrian refugee communities in Europe.

Donations in Saudi Arabia exceeded $100 million according to Mustafa Saleh, a Syrian resident in Jeddah. He told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that over a million people donated to the campaign there.

Millions of dollars more have been collected in other Gulf countries.

The Molham Volunteering Team launched a fund campaign dubbed "We Can Fund," and have been essential in sending aid to the affected northwest Syria regions.

The NGO, which aims to rebuild 4,000 homes, set up a live broadcast where donations poured in.

Donations are not arriving in only rebel-held zones in Syria’s northwest Idlib province. Money is also being sent to regime held regions, such as Aleppo, Latakia and Hama, also largely affected by the earthquake.

Syrian economist Hussein Jamil estimates that a "minimum" of $5 million is being sent to regime-controlled areas.

Jamil told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that the increased exchange rate on the black market had facilitated transfers from abroad. $1 was trading at 6,650 Syrian Pounds, while 1 Euro was trading at 6,985 Syrian Pounds he said.

But he sounded sceptical about all this money being directed for humanitarian purposes.

Aid supposedly sent to the homeless and those in need have been seen being sold in markets, while local war monitors and activists alleged that Syrian government forces and allied militias have looted some of this aid.

About of half of Syria’s pre-war population has been displaced since the conflict began in 2011, with millions now residing abroad.