This holiday season, here’s what we should do for Syria’s children

In August the world briefly showed its outrage when five-year-old Omran Daqneesh was pictured being carried into an ambulance covered in dirt and blood, having been pulled from the rubble in his Aleppo home.

There was a brief follow up in which news broke that his brother was killed in the same attack, and then, like so many of thousands – nee millions – to be displaced, Omran became a distant memory.

For his short moment of fame his name trended everywhere – on Facebook and Twitter people posted comments next to his iconic photo saying “never again” and “this has to stop”.

I personally remember seeing one exchange in which a person said they felt bad, but that there was nothing they could do. A friend of theirs then replied that they were doing something – they were raising awareness.

Omran’s face vanished from that timeline, like so many, and has been pushed down by holiday snaps, photos of friends’ babies and countless groups of people at some party or another.

Meanwhile, as I write this, Aleppo is being pounded – I have seen countless photos of the corpses of small children, apparently killed by forces loyal to President Bashar Al Assad. My colleague Leila Alwan reported that thousands of male civilians were being forced to fight for the Syrian regime – risking death for a cause many oppose - or face imminent death by execution – it is their catch 22.

I don’t know where Omran and his family ended up, I know that many like them either died or were displaced.

Those of us going to our families for Christmas should not shrug our shoulders and exclaim there’s nothing we can do for the likes of Omran and his family. There’s lots we can do – all of us

Peter Harrison

Christmas present

Meanwhile, those of us lucky enough not to be stuck in a war torn hell hole such as Syria’s Aleppo make plans to spend Christmas and the New Year with family and friends. We think nothing of spending a small fortune on presents that none of us actually need – but it’s a nice thing to do.

And as many millions of us enjoy time with people we care most about, many people will be stuck in camps in Syria’s neighboring countries or further afield. I know that - unbeknown to many – aid organizations are struggling to cope with vast amounts of refugees still stranded in Serbia, across Europe and even still in Greece.

The event of the New Year is almost irrelevant to these people who are surviving a daily hand-to-mouth existence in refugee camps across the Middle East and Europe.

There seems to be no end in sight for these people until someone somewhere comes up with some magic formula. That magic formula I suspect is an unlikely compromise – but sadly that seems a long way off. It needs either war to end or for countries to open their borders and give them much needed help.

Meanwhile those of us going to our families for Christmas should not feel bad about this, but we should also not shrug our shoulders and exclaim there’s nothing we can do for the likes of Omran and his family. There’s lots we can do – all of us.

We can all contribute to charities, we can send toys, food parcels – whatever it takes. I shan’t start listing organizations here, but there are many and they all need our help. We might not be able to physically travel to the millions stranded – but there’s still a lot we can do. Whichever side people support.

With hands held together we can at least calm our collective nerves and hope for a better 2017.
Peter Harrison is a British photojournalist whose career spans three decades, working for print, digital and broadcast media in the UK and the UAE. He's covered a broad spectrum of subjects, from health issues and farming in England, to the refugee crisis in Lebanon and the war in Afghanistan. He is a senior editor with Al Arabiya English and tweets @PhotoPJHarrison.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:47 - GMT 06:47
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.