Outpouring of public support for ‘Big Heart for Syrian refugee children’ responds to biggest humanitarian appeal in human history

Ongoing plight of Syrian refugees moves the local and online communities to turn words into actions

UAE, Sharjah, 29June 2013: In an unprecedented demonstration of solidarity with Syrian refugees, the UAE public has come together on streets and on social media networks to raise awareness, support and hope for Syrians. The public movement began on June 20th on World Refugee Day, when a heavily attended street parade was held in Sharjah. On social media networks, the ‘Big Heart for Syrian refugee children’ has already attracted about 8,000 followers in only two days.

In order to respond to crisis, the UN and humanitarian agencies recently launched the largest humanitarian appeal ever witnessed in human history seeking US$5 billion to provide an estimated 10 million Syrians with life-saving humanitarian assistance including food, shelter, healthcare and education.

Spearheading the response to this appeal in the UAE and the region is Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qassimi – the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children – whose humanitarian efforts have earned her the title of ‘The Big Heart’. Her campaign uses an innovative tool of digital and social media as well as on-the-ground engagement, with several hard-hitting viral videos and Tweets already garnering attention in cyberspace.

The conflict in Syria is not only affecting Syrians, but has also forced some 40,000 Iraqi refugees who had previously sought refuge in Syria to return to Iraq, despite the ongoing security challenges and volatility.

Every day, thousands of refugees – including pregnant women, newborn babies, theelderly and those with special needs, travel, oftentimes on foot, through the sweltering heat, braving the fierce fighting and deadly fields of landmines to cross into neighboring countries seeking protection.

Adding another dimension of complexity to an already complicated situation, the UN estimates that there are 4.25 million Syrians who internally displaced who, trapped in the crossfire within their homeland.UNHCR has assisted more than 1,000,000 people inside Syria in the last six months and is scaling up its operations to reach an even larger number of beneficiaries.

Noura Al Noman, Director of the Executive Office of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qassimi, observed: “Without action, words of support will remain exactly that: only words. Syrian refugees need action, and they need it fast; so we are deeply touched by the public movement and contributions to the ‘Big Heart for Syrian refugee children’ campaign. However we still need every help we can get, because the crisis is worsening literally every minute – as 7,000 new refugees arrive daily with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and the hope in their hearts.”

The influx of refugees has increased the strain on the already over-burdened resources of the host countries – particularly Lebanon, who recently issued its own humanitarian appeal seeking US$449 million to manage the crisis. Meanwhile Jordan, who issued a similar appeal, estimates that it will need US$380 million to absorb the refugee population within its borders.

Imran Riza, UNHCR Regional Representative to the GCC Countries, expressed concern that the Syria refugee crisis is continuing with a dramatic rate of displacement: “”The numbers are overwhelming. We have over a million new refugees already this year and expect the number to go to 3.5 million by the end of the year. And some half of these is children, many of whom have experienced and seen horrors that leave them traumatized. To make sure they do not become a lost generation is a huge challenge that this campaign andSheikhaJawaher’s work is contributing to.””

While UNHCR is committed to improving the lives of all tens of millions of refugees worldwide, the urgency of the Syrian situation has made it the immediate focus of the ‘Big Heart for Syrian refugee children’ campaign.

Those who wish to make a difference to the lives of Syrian refugees can assist by texting the word “donate” via these SMS Codes (on the Etisalat network): 2000 (AED10), 2002 (AED50), 2003 (AED100); or through Salam YaSeghar “For Syrian Refugee Children”. Bank details: Account number: 0034 430430 012; IBAN: AE5804 100000 3443 04300 12. Contact: +9716594 1111,+9716594 1115, +9716594 1103.

The Big Heart Campaign and Her Highness Executive Office would like to thank Al Batha Group for their extremely generous donation of AED 5 million for Syrian Refugees and we would like to thank them specially for setting the path for others to follow.