The haunting images of Syrian refugees emerging this week have many asking the United States to do more for those fleeing a conflict has that has already claimed nearly 300,000 lives.

Since the conflict began in 2011, the United Nations has referred 17,000 Syrian refugees for resettlement in the United States. Of those, the U.S. has excepted only 1,500.

Department of State spokesperson Mark Toner expects that number to jump to 1800 by the end of the fiscal year this month.

Meanwhile, he said the U.S. has given $4.1 billion in aid.

As for accepting refugees on American soil, Toner said the 18 to 24 month vetting process of each and every application is a must.

“There’s a lot of terrorist groups operating in that region, in that part of the world,” said Toner said. “And we need to make sure that fundamentally, we protect the national security of the United States of America.”

So far this year, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Petersburg has helped resettle 10 Syrian refugees.

“Providing enrollment in school for the children so they can get back to normal going to school every day,” said program manager Debbi Jarrie. “Learning the English language for adults.  Also employment services.”

Jarrie said you too can help by making a donation. To do so, visit

“Even a toothbrush, toothpaste or bar of soap,” Jarrie said. “Everything we take for granted. They come here with nothing.”