While the media continues to focus on the refugee crisis in Europe, the fate of 23.5 million people left behind in Syria in Iraq in need of urgent humanitarian help receives less exposure, even though most of these refugees come from those two countries.
Many of the Syrians and Iraqi's left behind are living in conditions that are as horrifying as refugees stranded in Europe, yet there is an imbalance between the media exposure given to the refugee crisis in Europe and the situations that internally displaced and vulnerable people are also enduring on a daily basis inside Syria and Iraq. Both are urgent and important, but there is a disparity in the coverage and subsequently the general awareness.
The refugee crisis in Europe is visible. It is here. It is in the countries where we holiday, the places we have relatives, the areas we do business in, and we cannot ignore the multitudes of desperate and traumatised people at our borders.
Anyone wishing to see for themselves or offer a helping hand can travel to Europe and give support with relative ease and safety. People return with stories and photos of the misery they have witnessed personally, and the compassion that these helpless situations stir up.
Sadly, the situation in the Middle East is just as complicated, and infinitely more dangerous.
Few are willing to risk the very real dangers of travelling to Syria where personal safety, trust, and hope itself have largely disappeared from a society which has broken down beyond any recognition.
What does life look like for those still living inside Syria who have been displaced and are trying to survive in makeshift accommodation? These people have no income and little hope of finding employment in a devastated economy and country where children are taken out of school to serve as breadwinners for their households. Even the majority of those in employment are unable to take home salaries high enough to meet their needs for daily living.
In a country where an estimated 3 in 4 people now live in poverty, with 67% of the population in extreme poverty, ordinary people have been reduced to surviving by any means they can.
One of my Syrian partners describes to me how before the war, they used to travel from Aleppo to Damascus in the middle of the night, but now they don't dare to leave their homes after 7pm. Travelling distances in Syria is no longer safe as civilians are targeted on many roads by gangs and groups like IS who kidnap, ransom and execute people as they travel from place to place. Before the war, they slept with their front doors and windows open. Now they sleep with their eyes open wide.
They do not dare to let their children play outside, and schools in areas of conflict no longer allow children to play in the open air. Employing someone to care for their children to enable two professional parents to work is not an option, as the level of trust in their fellow human beings has reached an all-time low. Ordinary people who lived normal lives before the war now resort to theft and violence, and there is no longer a police presence to challenge this deterioration.
With the lack of media attention it is easy to forget that survival at the heart of the crisis is a battle that shows no significant signs of improvement.
If life inside Syria was more bearable and there was more support for these vulnerable people in their home country, fewer would be making unsafe journeys in hope of escaping the bitter reality of life inside Syria.
But what are the options for the people in a country where 8.7 million people are unable to meet their food needs, 11.5 million are in need of urgent medical care and there are more than 6.6 million internally displaced people?
The one thing that is absolutely clear is that support for these people inside Syria must be treated as a priority. We, as fellow human beings with the gift of compassion, must keep searching our hearts to find ways to encourage these people, and bring a glimmer of hope to these traumatised lives.
For more information about how you can get involved in supporting the Syrians and Iraqi's left behind who are in need of humanitarian assistance, please request an information pack www.samarasaidappeal.org/collectors