How can Australians help people in Syria and Iraq?

Seeing harrowing images from war zones in Syria and Iraq can make people feel at a loss of how to help, but there are ways Australians can lend a hand.

There are dozens of organisations already working within and around the war-torn cities of Aleppo and Mosul.

We asked workers from Red Cross and World Vision what Australians can do.

What is being done to help people in Syria?

Australian Red Cross Disaster and Crisis Response Manager Jess Letch said they have been working in Syria for the past five years and have raised more than $2 million from Australians to buy a range of items.

“They include baby kits, so the kind of nappies and baby clothes and infant formula that you might need to keep a baby going during the conflict … [and] food parcels to help feed family for a month,” she said.

Can I donate food and clothing to the cause?

You can, but the costs of shipping goods to these regions outweighs the benefits.

So it’s best to just send a monetary donation.

She said it was also the best way to support local businesses and cut down the cost of shipping.

“We want to support the local businesses … and especially for personal items and food items they want things that are familiar to them,” Ms Letch said.

“Even a toothbrush or toothpaste … and soap, things like that are very personal.”

Donations are often tax-deductible.

What do people in Syria need the most?

Items for winter.

The coldest month of the year is January, when temperatures sit at around 7 degrees Celsius.

It means shelter, cooking items and warm clothes are a priority.

“We have provided winterisation kits so that’s basic items like mattresses and blankets and stoves so people can get through cold winters when they are living in difficult circumstances,” she said.

She said they also provide hygiene kits (like the one pictured in the top image) which include basic items like soap, toilet paper, a toothbrush and toothpaste with the aim to keep people free from disease or illness.

What is being done to help people in Mosul?

Communications specialist with World Vision in northern Iraq Kayla Robertson said the passage of aid to Mosul was increasingly difficult, so aid organisations work to meet the needs of those who have fled.

“The sheer scale of the humanitarian need after years of conflict is immense,” she said.

“For instance, in Iraq nearly 70,000 people have been displaced since the operation to retake Mosul began last month.

“That’s on top of another 3.3 million people who were already displaced in the country, half of which are children.”

What do people in Mosul need?

The very basics.

“Families are fleeing the Mosul area with little but the clothes on their backs,” she said.

“They’re arriving at camps hungry, thirsty and exhausted; some of the children are terrified, having been exposed to violent events, such as airstrikes and gunfire.

“Our teams are meeting their most pressing needs with food, fresh drinking water, stoves, mats for warmth and hygiene kits filled with toothbrushes, soap and towels.”