One year on from a photo that shook the world

World Vision’s Chris Clarke urges us not to forget a child who died on a Turkish beach.
A graffiti showing drowned three-year-old refugee Aylan Kurdi was created at the river Main in Frankfurt, Germany. Photo / AP
A graffiti showing drowned three-year-old refugee Aylan Kurdi was created at the river Main in Frankfurt, Germany. Photo / AP

• Warning - graphic image

Chris Clarke, chief executive of World Vision NZ, writes about the impact of the story of Alan Kurdi, one year on.

Before he drowned in the Mediterranean Sea, all 3-year-old Alan Kurdi knew was war. He was born into conflict that would take his life as his family tried to escape its horrors.

But for a moment his tragic death seemed not to be pointless.

On September 2, 2015, the images of his tiny body on a beach in Turkey shook humanity awake to the atrocities of the war in Syria, and the innocence of the victims.

Around the world people grieved for Alan, a child who never had the opportunity to know the joys of childhood. His death changed the perceptions of the refugee crisis and the war in Syria.

In New Zealand the response was overwhelming. People called in tears asking what they could do to help. More than $1.7 million was donated to the Herald and World Vision's Forgotten Millions campaign.

The government then matched $1.3 million of that funding. This year Kiwi kids devoted themselves to raising money for Syrian refugees, kids just like them forced to live in camps and in fear having fled their homes, for the 40 Hour Famine.

This year Kiwi kids devoted themselves to raising money for Syrian refugees, kids just like them forced to live in camps and in fear having fled their homes, for the 40 Hour Famine.

In Canada, where young Alan was told he was going to live, the Syrian war became an election issue. Three days after Alan died, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed to bringing 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada if he was elected. By August this year nearly 30,000 Syrian refugees had arrived.

But sometimes I feel Alan died in vain. Twelve months after his death this terrible war rages through its sixth year. And children just like him are still the innocent victims.

Last month another image of a young boy was featured in the media around the world.

Five-year-old Omran Daqneesh sat alone, stunned and confused in the back of an ambulance, bloodied and covered in rubble, the victim of an airstrike on the besieged city of Aleppo. I fear there is no one coming to help Omran.

He is one of an estimated 13.5 million people, including 6 million children, in need of humanitarian assistance in the region.

Of these 5.47 million people are in hard-to-reach areas in Syria, including close to 600,000 people besieged inside their own country.

In Aleppo hundreds of thousands of people have been cut off from food and water.

Humanitarian aid has been prevented from entering the city. The world has watched as Syrian families are left to starve in their homes.

New Zealanders must not abandon the people of Syria. Wealthy and stable countries like New Zealand must shoulder the burden to support the innocent victims of this war.

We must remember that when we are brave New Zealand can change the outcome of history.

This month is New Zealand's presidency of the United Nations Security Council. The Government has provided essential funding to humanitarian work in response to the crisis.

Now this is our chance for New Zealand's voice to shape the international agenda and demand humanitarian access to the Syrian families cut off from vital supplies.

We must continue to support the millions of refugees taken in by the neighbouring countries in the Middle East who are bearing the weight of the largest humanitarian crisis of our time.

In Lebanon nearly one in every four people is a refugee. The country does not have the schools, housing or jobs to cope with this influx of people. Children are growing up without a chance to fulfil their potential. These countries need our help.

Through compassion New Zealanders can continue to make a difference to lives of Syrian refugees. Our voice can ensure those trapped inside Syria are not deserted. We must not forget Alan Kurdi.

• World media initially referred to the little boy as Aylan. This is wrong. Aylan is the Turkish spelling. Alan is Kurdish and that's his Kurdish name.

What is The Forgotten Millions campaign?
The Forgotten Millions campaign was launched by World Vision with support from the Herald in 2011, to raise funds for and draw attention to those affected by the devastating Syrian crisis.

Syria is heading into its sixth year of conflict and the suffering is horrific, with 13.5 million people in desperate need of humanitarian assistance and approximately 2.3 million children living as refugees in neighbouring countries.

As part of the campaign, the Herald travelled to Syria to meet with the mums, dads and children affected by the conflict to tell their stories.

What is the situation in Syria?
According to World Vision, the situation in Syria is more desperate than ever.
People have lost their homes, families, friends and been exposed to extreme violence. 86,000 children under five are malnourished in Syria and millions are living with their families in tents and makeshift buildings.

How much has been raised so far?
The campaign has raised more than $1.7 million. The government then matched $1.3 million of that funding.

Where does the money go?
Since 2011, World Vision has provided over 2 million people throughout Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and Serbia with life-saving aid.

Your donations help provide refugee families in urgent need with food, water, shelter, healthcare and supplies to survive the harshness of winter, plus an extensive list of other items.

World Vision estimates the cost of the crisis is at US$275 billion (over $379 billion).

How can I donate?
Donations can be made online at worldvision.org.nz/ways-to-give/syrian-refugee-crisis or via phone 0800 90 5000.

Offline donations can be made by printing off the form below and filling it out.

- NZ Herald

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