I just saw the feature "LIGHTBOX" in Time Magazine's issue of February 10, 2014 and I was moved to tears.
I had recently been in touch with my dear friend Caryl Stern, President and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, and she told me about the millions of Syrian children who are refugees and at risk from the Syrian conflict.
There is an old adage, "Adults make war and children suffer," and so it is more so today than ever.
I am not a political person and do not take sides in these conflicts because I do not have the hubris to believe I know who is right and who is wrong; but what I do know is wrong, intolerable, and tragic, is the horror visited on the innocent children in these conflicts. These children do not know the difference between the political divides separating peoples, they do not understand the hatreds and the emotions that cause people to kill and maim. All they want is to grow up in peace and have a chance at life. Instead, they are forced to suffer in horrendous conditions and are, more often than not, victims of predation.
I ask myself often, "What can I do for these children?" and, sadly, the answer is "not enough." Having said that, though, I am not one to present a problem and not offer a solution, so here is my recommendation...and please understand that I am a heretic at heart.
Part of the problem is the competition -- yes, competition -- between organizations supposedly trying to help these children. I have seen this wherever I have been in crisis situations. Dozens, if not hundreds, of organizations (most well meaning like UNICEF and WHO, and others, who will go nameless, whose role is more self-serving such as proselytizing or fund raising back home) flood the area with their workers eating up valuable resources and creating a sort of gridlock in getting much needed help to those most in need. They compete for the spotlight and for the position in the refugee community. Moreover, there is an incredible duplication of overhead. Recently in Haiti, for example, amid the devastation and poverty and helplessness I counted more than 50 brand new SUVs carrying the logos of "aid" organizations plying the streets in just 2 hours of watching.
It is a heresy, I know, but it is time to change this pattern and waste of time and resources.
Under the auspices of an apolitical organization such as the World Health Organization, a "super fund" should be established and funded by both the first world governments and then the other service organizations whose mission is direct assistance to children. This "super fund" should be designed to enter any and all refugee situations and provide special, safe enclosures for the children. Here the children should be housed, given medical care, and provided with basic education -- all non-political. These facilities should be guarded by the United Nations peacekeepers to ensure that the children are not victims of predation.
I know this sounds heretical, but if the 20 richest nations in the world each allocated just $50 million each a year (a drop in the bucket for these nations) that would be $1 Billion dollars. If the private sector donated another 50 percent of that we would have $1.5 billion a year in the super fund and we could care for all the refuge children at basic livable standard.
The question is this: do we have the will or are the children more valuable as pawns in these struggles both to the warring parties and to the "warring" organizations competing for position?
I leave that answer to the readers.
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