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Syrian boy in ambulance reminds world of war's horror

A haunting photo of a 5-year-old Syrian boy inside an ambulance has reminded the world of the severity of the ongoing war in that nation.
/ Source: TODAY

It’s hard to decide what’s more horrifying: The simple image of the barefoot young Syrian boy, covered in gray dust after being rescued from a bombed-out building, or the dazed and desensitized look on his blood-caked face.

Related: See a list of groups that help Syrian war victims and refugees

Aid workers have identified "the boy in the ambulance" as 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh. He was pulled from rubble left in the aftermath of an airstrike Wednesday in a rebel-held neighborhood in Aleppo. The look of shock on his face as he sits inside an ambulance matches the reaction being shared by millions coming across his photo in their social media feeds.

“I just pictured my kids,” said Gader Ibrahim, a California mother of two boys, 1 and 4, who volunteers to help refugee children and who shared Omran's photo on Facebook. “How unfair for these people to have to live like that. My kids are safe in a house and these kids are dodging bombs out there. It’s horrifying. I can’t believe this is actually happening in 2016.”

Omran, a four-year-old Syrian boy
This image of 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh, from Aleppo, Syria, has reminded the world of the severity of the crisis.AFP - Getty Images

RELATED: How American moms decided to make a difference for refugee kids

The picture of Omran has generated a response similar to the global reaction to another disturbing picture that emerged from the Syrian civil war and refugee crisis, that of Aylan Kurdi, a 3-year-old toddler whose drowned body washed ashore in Turkey last September.

Drowned Syrian toddler refugee in Turkey
Hundreds of thousands of refugees are risking their lives to reach Europe this year, 20,000 overwhelming a small Greek island in just the last week, with thousands drowning and dying in what's become the biggest mass migration since WWII. NBC's Bill Neely reports for TODAY.TODAY

The boy died along with his older brother and their mother after their boat capsized on the way to Greece.

Omran's parents and immediate family members were wounded but survived Wednesday's attack, according to The Associated Press.

The photo of Omran has since gone viral, along with the video released by Aleppo Media Center, an anti-Syrian government activist group, that shows a rescue worker placing the boy in the ambulance. The recording shows Omran sitting quietly. At one point, he rubs an eye and runs a hand over his blood-stained face, then looks at the blood on his hand and wipes his fingers on his seat.

The images have served as symbols of the plight of the youngest victims caught in the ferocious and ghastly civil war in Syria. A historic number of refugees continue to flee the nation, despite the high risk for death.

RELATED: Tragic photos put spotlight on refugee crisis. Here's how you can help

Ibrahim founded the aid group Operation Refugee Child, and just returned home to California on Wednesday following her latest trip to Greece giving aid to some of the tens of thousands of refugees stranded there. She said she hopes everyone who feels outraged and saddened by Omran's image is moved to action.

Gader Ibrahim, founder of Operation Refugee Child, holds a newborn baby at a refugee camp in Greece.
Gader Ibrahim, founder of Operation Refugee Child, holds a newborn baby at a refugee camp in Greece.Courtesy of Operation Refugee Child

"They can volunteer their time, and they can find organization like mine — small, grassroots organizations that need their donations because we actually go out and help these people," she said.

RELATED: 'It's about the children' — American moms on helping refugees

But mostly, she hopes it raises awareness, particularly among Americans.

"I’m hoping this can get to our president," Ibrahim said. "There’s only so much we can do on social media. We can share it and things can go viral, but we can’t put a stop to it. But there are some people in this world who can."

Read more: How you can help

Here is a partial list of organizations accepting donations to help Syrian children and refugees. Click here for more:

The UN Refugee Agency: Plans include distributing sleeping bags, thermal blankets, raincoats, socks, clothes and footwear to the most vulnerable refugees. "Harsh weather conditions are likely to exacerbate the suffering of the thousands of refugees and migrants landing in Greece and travelling through the Balkans," UNHCR spokesman William Spindler said.

Save the Children: Supplies food for Syrian kids and supports education in Syrian refugee camps.

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders: MSF is operating two rescue ships in the Mediterranean Sea that can carry hundreds of people to land.

Unicef: It delivers vaccines, winter clothes and food for children in Syria and neighboring countries.

Operation Refugee Child: Grassroots organization led by American moms who distribute backpacks of supplies to refugee children whose families are fleeing war and terror.