Alumni Dispatch: Jeremy Barnicle, Chief Development and Chief Communications Officer, Mercy Corps
Half of the 220,000 people killed in the Syrian civil war have been civilians. Untargeted barrel bombings have crumbled cities and diminished basic resources like food and water. Many children have been out of school for four years. Those who have survived the attacks suffer with injuries and have no access to medical care.
Within the country, 7.6 million people have been displaced. Another 4 million have made the life-threatening trek into neighboring countries – Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt – making this the worst refugee crisis since the Rwandan genocide two decades ago.
Watching the Syrian tragedy unfold in real time, Jeremy Barnicle, MPA ’04, chief development and chief communications officer at the global aid agency Mercy Corps, doesn’t see an end to the crisis in the near future.
“In my roughly 20 years working in and around conflicts, Syria is the most worrying because people are suffering massively,” Barnicle said. “It has destabilized the region well beyond its borders, and it’s hard to see it ending soon.”
The Syrian crisis sprung from the series of protests that erupted across the Middle East and Africa in 2011, known as the Arab Spring. Largely incited by dissatisfaction with government and living conditions, more than 20 countries faced unrest from public demonstrations to overthrown regimes to all-out civil war. In Syria, dissent quickly escalated to an armed rebellion. With stability further complicated by the rising influence of the militant group known as the Islamic State, the war shows no signs of winding down. Tension among Syria’s neighbors continues to grow as they bear the weight of the civilian exodus.
The Portland, Oregon-based Mercy Corps is on the ground in more than 40 countries, providing both short-term emergency assistance and long-term economic and community rebuilding. Barnicle is responsible for raising money from individual, foundation and corporate donors and communicating the work of the organization through the media and marketing campaigns.
“Our Syria work focuses mostly on alleviating suffering, which is a big part of our mission,” Barnicle said. “Syria is an example of what I refer to as the ‘hot humanitarian crises,’ which means situations where active conflict and huge displacement means we’re just trying to meet people’s basic human needs. Outside of those contexts, we’re trying to help fragile places become more resilient by mitigating conflict, building economic livelihoods, strengthening food systems, providing access to financial services and improving local governance.”
The focus of Mercy Corps’ work on the Syrian crisis is both inside the country and in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey. The declining media coverage of the civil war has had a negative impact on public interest, posing challenges to raising money specifically to meet the ongoing needs of Syrians caught in conflict. But the organization has assisted about 4 million refugees and internally displaced people with food, water, clothes, mattresses and shelter. Beyond that, they are supporting children’s recovery from their traumatic journeys and promoting overall development.
To read more about Barnicle and his work with Mercy Corps, click here.