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Americans Think Hurricane Katrina Worse Crisis Than Syria

Americans think Hurricane Katrina, Indian Ocean Tsunami and Haiti earthquake affected more people than the conflict in Syria
More than one-fifth of Americans are not at all familiar with the Syria conflict
Of those familiar with the conflict, three-fourths think U.S. should help people affected in some way 

SEATTLE, March 12, 2014 /Christian Newswire/ – Almost three years into the conflict in Syria, many Americans do not know the full scale of the crisis, according to a new poll conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of World Vision among more than 2,000 U.S. adults. The poll found that when presented with a list of prominent humanitarian crises, more Americans select Hurricane Katrina (16%) as having affected the greatest number of people than select the conflict in Syria (10%). So far the conflict in Syria has impacted an estimated 9.3 million people – more than Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti and the Indian Ocean Tsunami and nearly as many as the three crises combined.

The study also found one in five Americans (21%) admit to being not at all familiar with the conflict. Those who are familiar are overwhelmingly likely to say the United States should do something to help, either through increased humanitarian aid, increased diplomatic pressure or other measures (76%, vs. 24% who say the U.S. should not help in any way).

As the three-year anniversary of the conflict in Syria approaches this weekend, more than 100,000 people have died and an estimated 9 million people have been forced from their homes – either within Syria or in neighboring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

A total of 9.3 million Syrians are currently in need of humanitarian aid, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. More than half of those impacted are children.

“Each day, millions of children are caught in the middle of the Syrian crisis, struggling for the basics of survival like food, somewhere to live and a safe place to call home. They face the threat of bombs, gunfire, early marriage, and being forced to work to provide for their families,” said Conny Lenneberg, World Vision’s Regional Leader for Middle East and Eastern Europe. “Yet many of us turn away, sometimes purposely turning a blind eye to all that is happening. Although it’s painful to see the reality, it’s vital that we do so. An entire generation is depending on us.”

Other findings from the poll include:

  • Of those familiar with the conflict, nearly half (47%) think the U.S. should increase humanitarian aid.
  • Of those familiar with the conflict, there are no significant differences between those with different education levels or household incomes who agree the U.S. should help those affected by the conflict.
  • Adults age 18-34 are significantly less likely to be familiar with the conflict than those age 35 or older (29% saying they are ‘not at all familiar’ vs. 18% of those age 35+ who said the same).
  • When it comes to why money may be hard to raise for humanitarian aid in response to the conflict in Syria, more than half of Americans (53%) think it’s because money should go towards addressing problems in the U.S.

The poll comes as World Vision is releasing a new report completely written and researched by refugee children of the Syrian crisis, titled “Our Uncertain Future.” In the report, children found that 86 percent of their peers have been exposed to violence. Several questioned why the world is not paying attention:

“If I had the opportunity to address people in power around the world, I would say: ‘Haven’t you had enough of the destruction in Syria? Haven’t you seen enough blood in Syria? Haven’t you seen enough deaths in Syria? What else do you still need, to save us and bring us back to our country? If I had a magic wand, I would erase all the destruction that happened in Syria or in any other country and draw instead the best and most beautiful thing for everyone,” said Hanadi, 17, a Syrian refugee.

World Vision has been responding to the crisis by helping people in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, supporting more than 300,000 with water, sanitation services, household supplies and healthcare, with a focus on the protection and well-being of children.

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