The heart breaking video of the 5-year-old Syrian, Omran Daqnesh, is taking social media by storm with people cutting across nationalities outpoured compassion. Comparisons have been drawn to 3-year-old, Alan Kurdi, the Syrian refugee who was washed up on the shores of Turkey while trying to flee the war engulfed state. Omran?s video has been shared and retweeted by millions across the globe. The image was also tweeted by David Miliband, former British foreign secretary and now President and Chief Executive of the International Rescue Committee.
Do we need little Omran?s tragedies to trigger compassion? Are there ways to act before such tragedies occur?
A lost generation
The ongoing war in Syrian has affected millions of lives and altered the lives of many generations to come. ?The children of Syria have experienced more hardship, devastation, and violence than any child should have to in a thousand lifetimes,? says Dr. Christine Latif, World Vision?s response manager for Turkey and northern Syria. There is no idea of normalcy in the lives of these children. Lack of basic necessities in life remain a constant. Aleppo, a city in northern Syria, in particular has not received water, food and electricity in the past few months. Children here do know what a school looks like. An estimated 2-3 million Syrian children are not attending school. The U.N. children?s agency says the war reversed ten years of progress in education for Syrian children. A special report by World Vision documented one such instance – ?On the day of Isra?a?s final exam, warring factions destroyed her school in Damascus, shattering her way of life and dreams of earning a high school diploma.? ?I was in school when the bombs hit,? the 18-year-old said during an interview in 2013. ?The windows were blown out, glass everywhere, and some hit my friends in the face and hands.?
A year later, the former honour student still spends her time locked up inside a tiny flat with at least seven others on the most impoverished street in Zarqa, Jordan.
All this happens to them with absolutely no fault of theirs.
Turning a blind eye
There are a million responses to pictures and videos like those of Omar and Alan on social media in the form of tweets, statuses, and pouring of donations. However, such social media messages have a short stay in the minds of the users. You scroll down, and forget. The constant air strikes causing collateral damage on civilians still continue, the wounds of millions unforgotten. Omar was one of the twelve children under the age of 15 who were treated on Wednesday. His older brother, Ali, a ten-year old has succumbed to his injuries this Thursday. The media has not given him the same attention, similar to the millions of children who die tragic deaths every year in Syria.
On Friday, three Syrian children drowned along with three adults when their wooden boat capsized off the coast of Libya. The bodies of two girls – aged eight months and five years -were pulled out while the five-year-old boy?s body is yet to be found, Reuters reported. However, they barely received any media attention.
Acting like shock therapy, the picture of Alan Kurdi did have some positive affect on public opinion. According to BBC, the demand to lift restrictions on asylum laws also surged further after the picture emerged. The “Refugees Welcome” tag, discussing Germany’s relaxation of restrictions, gained an additional 74,000 tweets, and nearly 20,000 more used the English phrase “People Not Migrants”. Canada also saw some relaxation on their asylum laws removed certain legal obstacles. Under its new leadership, Justin Trudeau, Canada has begun to welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees showing a change in mind sets.
One should keep in mind that not every country is a Canada or Germany. There are other countries that have the capacity to take refugees, however, they don?t welcome them for the fear of backlash from nationalists, their economic conditions or other socio-political unrest in the country. It will take more than a social media to change the mind-sets in those countries, and only then we will stop seeing tragedies like Omran?s.
More than just a share on social media
Are there ways to make sure Omran doesn?t remains as another tragic picture on the Internet? There are various organisations such as World Vision, Save Our Children, and UN related agencies such as the WFP and UNICEF who work tirelessly to provide Syrians with basic necessities of life. They accept donations online and cater to the needs of wounded. While they are taking concrete action, they also need more support from all of us, whether through donations or spreading the word about their good deeds. While a ?Political Situation? to the Syrian war might ultimately end the war, efforts of the international civil society is what will get Omran and millions like him through another day in misery.
– Contributed by Tanisha, a Student of Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Journalism
Picture Credits: bbc.co.uk