After five years of devastating violence, the ancient Syrian city of Aleppo lies in ruins, bombed relentlessly by the government forces of President Bashar al-Assad, assisted by Russian and Iranian allies.
With reports of house-to-house executions targeting the families of rebel forces, the carnage of the civil war that sprung from peaceful protests in 2011 is horrific.
Some 400,000 Syrians have been killed by their own government. Hospitals and schools have been shown no mercy. Aid workers have been shot as they attempt to evacuate civilians.
Thousands slowly starve with no access to food or water, fuel or even basic medical supplies, in a clear violation of international law. Profiting from the chaos, ISIS has risen.
Amidst the almost complete devastation, a mass evacuation of the estimated 100,000 people still remaining in Aleppo has begun as a stalled ceasefire finally takes hold. Countless aid workers, doctors and ordinary citizens are attempting to save as many lives as possible.
With convoys fleeing towards the still rebel-held province of Idlib, al-Assad has sworn to crush all resistance, branding the opposition terrorists.
But for those who make it out, their suffering is far from over as they join a refugee crisis of unimaginable scale, with the conflicts in Syria and Iraq combined, unsettling close to 11 million people.
For many Australians watching on, the human tragedy is overwhelming, as is the feeling of helplessness. And yet, there are concrete ways to help relief efforts. Here are six things you can do to help today.
1. Donate to the relief efforts
A number of international aid agencies are on the ground helping the evacuation process at great risk to their personnel as well as raising funds for food, water, clothing and other essential supplies
Every dollar helps in critical situations such as this. Consider donating to non-governmental organisations including the Australian Red Cross, OXFAM, Médecins Sans Frontières, Save the Children, the UNHCR and UNICEF.
2. Help fundraise
If you don’t have a lot of spare cash yourself, you can still help by organising fundraising drives, selling off old clothes and books, or baking cakes.
Alternatively, you can help by getting involved in already organised fundraising events. Check out what local community groups are doing.
3. Consider supporting the White Helmets
Though the White Helmets rescue response outfit has international origins, they are a majority Syrian and avowedly non-partisan rescue group of unarmed civilians who risk their own lives to pull survivors and bodies from the rubble.
While there has been some debate as to their effectiveness, with a lack of training plus weighty propaganda hurled at them from al-Assad’s government, there is little doubt as to their bravery.
4. Don’t send food or clothing
While there’s a huge need for food, blankets, stoves, clothing and food, the cost of posting these to the region outweighs the benefits and hampers already existing supply structures.
It’s better to donate money to the agencies on the ground.
5. Pressure the Australian government to take more Syrian refugees
Well over a year after former Prime Minister Tony Abbott promised to take in 12,000 Syrian refugees, the Australian government still hasn’t accepted anywhere that number, which has been criticised for being too few anyway.
Write to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s office, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and your local MP calling for Australia to take more people and faster.
6. Help Syrian refugees settle into Australia
Welcoming new refugees into the community is a big task, especially if they don’t speak English, but there are groups in Australia set up to help, including home tutoring schemes. Find out more here.