06.09.2013 - News

Syria: Taking stock of the situation

Starting in 2011 as a revolt, the Syrian conflict rapidly turned into a civil war that has already claimed 100,000 fatalities. The humanitarian situation in the interior of the country is critical and continues to worsen. Access to basic needs like food or treatment is becoming more difficult for people in the war zones. There is a significant shortage of drinking water, medical materials, fuel and electricity that risks aggravating the humanitarian state of affairs even further.

Makeshift shelter

After nearly two years of war, over two million people – of whom nearly one million are children – have fled from their homes to find refuge in neighbouring countries.

Number of refugees¹:

Lebanon: 720,000
Jordan: 519,700
Turkey: 463,900
Iraq: 172,000
Egypt: 111,100

The majority of the host countries are coming to the limit of their capacity to take people in. Living conditions are tough in the refugee camps. The refugees find it hard to find accommodation or even a shelter, basic necessities are sometimes difficult to get, and the health services are struggling to respond to the demands on them. Children, often separated from their parents, are especially exposed to exploitation, in particular labour. The humanitarian organizations have to redouble their efforts to offer them the protection and psychological support they badly need.

In both Lebanon and Jordan, where Terre des hommes is working, tension is felt in many villages between host communities and refugees. The numbers of the refugees weighs heavily on local infrastructure (schools, health centres, hospitals, social centres) and on access to scarce resources such as water. The situation also creates rivalry in getting job opportunities. Taking the needs of these most vulnerable host populations into account is therefore essential for reducing the strain.

Tdh’s intervention to aid the refugees

In the space of two years, Lebanon has taken in 720,000 Syrian citizens and 85,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria. Our Foundation, already in Lebanon to aid Palestinian refugees, launched a programme to help this displaced population in 2012. It ran projects to distribute basic necessities such as mattresses, blankets, hygiene kits and cooking utensils for the new arrivals, and distributed money and hygiene articles for the most vulnerable. So as to respond in particular to the needs of the children, Tdh also set up a programme of recreational activities, so that the young boys and girls can have a little fun and forget for a moment their daily anxiety and the traumas suffered. This project includes children from the host communities so as to enable better integration. It also comprises a section of individualized support for the most vulnerable children and the distribution of hygiene kits for babies and specialized ones for women. In the past five months, 6,000 children have benefitted from this project.

Support for Syrian refugees is equally at the core of Terre des hommes’ projects in Jordan, where almost 520,000 people are registered with the UNHCR – over half of them children. Our Foundation is present in the northern region of the country, on the border to Syria. There it runs projects for protection, psychosocial support and targeted material assistance for Syrian child refugees and their families, also including the host communities and affecting nearly 3,700 of the most needy people. Tdh works in the Emirates Jordan Camp (EJC), located near the town of Zarqa. Over 800 children registered with Tdh there take part in psychosocial activities during which they can play, interact and express their feelings.

Getting ready

Although no massive influx of refugees is expected for the moment, since the announcement of the possible military intervention, Terre des hommes envisages various scenarios. “With more than 500,000 Syrian refugees already in Jordan, the capacity of the country to respond adequately to their needs has reached its limits”, says our programme head in that country. “If the situation deteriorates in Syria, the humanitarian situation will become even more complex. Contingency plans and options for interventions are now being discussed at a national level.”

¹Source: UNHCR (02.09.2013)