Outpouring of Donations for Syrian Refugees Following News of Child’s Death

The Syrian civil war has been going for some time now, and while the Syrian refugee situation has gotten a lot of press lately, it’s been something that groups like Save the Children and UNICEF have been working on for a while. But, following the death of three year old Aylan Kurdi, a Syrian child who drowned on a Turkish beach, Americans in particular have been giving a lot more to help out.

According to Carolyn Miles, the president and CEO of Save the Children, since photos of Aylan and the story of his death began circulating on social media sites, donations have been pouring in, especially from ordinary Americans. Miles says that, in the first eight months of 2015, Save the Children raised about $200,000 to aid refugees. In the eight days following Aylan’s death, they raised over $800,000. The United States Fund for UNICEF also reported a huge influx of donations, 636% more donation, in fact, as well as three times the website traffic they normally received.

Young Aylan’s death was a tragedy, and one that could have been avoided in numerous ways, but news of his death, and especially photos of his body on that Turkish beach, seem to have galvanized people. For many, it seems, the refugee situation isn’t just about numbers any more, but about actual people, and especially about children. As morbid as it is, photos of one dead child helped to create a huge outpouring of goodwill.

From a charitable standpoint, this is the power of social media. In the past, photos like that of Kim Phuc, a young Vietnamese girl burned by napalm in 1972, have driven home the realities of suffering during armed conflicts and other tragedies. But the speed with which the story of Aylan’s death spread around the world has made a huge difference. If his story had only been shared in traditional print media, it is unlikely that the donations would have come in as quickly. Or maybe even as much.