UMCOR

United Methodist Committee on Relief

Dangerous and Difficult: Aiding Syria’s Displaced

Crowds gather after an explosion, as seen from a damaged house near the site, in Syria’s capital, Damascus
Crowds gather after an explosion, as seen from a damaged house near the site, in Syria’s capital, Damascus
REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri, courtesy the Thomson Reuters Foundation – AlertNet

By David Tereshchuk*

August 13, 2012—More and more Syrian people throughout their country are abandoning their homes, as combat between the government and its opponents takes over the streets.

The conflict that started as scattered uprisings and protests against President Bashar al-Assad in distant cities now engulfs more and more of Syria’s population centers, including the capital, Damascus.

Fleeing families have sometimes headed for the country’s several borders, and crossed over. Those who can’t leave or haven’t yet tried, have instead often sought refuge in what they hope are safer areas inside Syria, including in Damascus.

Either way, the needs of the newly homeless are urgent. Getting help to them is difficult and often dangerous, in the face of the armed conflict that appears more vicious with every week. The task is simply enormous, too; it is reliably estimated that 1 in 20 Syrians are now internally displaced, roughly 1.5 million people. And the flow across those frontiers to neighboring countries shows no sign of diminishing.

UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, is relying upon locally active humanitarian partners to channel the badly needed assistance as effectively as possible. Notable among these partners is the Turkey-based Muslim aid agency International Blue Crescent (IBC). IBC, in turn, collaborates closely with Syria’s own Arab Red Crescent organization.

UMCOR also partners with International Orthodox Christian Charities, which not only relates to the Red Crescent and the Syrian relief group, Al–Nadah Association, but also links closely to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East (GOPA), which caters to Syria’s minorities.

With such an experienced local presence on the ground, provision is being firmly facilitated—but that doesn’t mean things are easy. Far from it.

IBC’s Project Coordinator in the Syrian capital, Deniz Aziz Wahab, has already known refugee life all too well—as a displaced Iraqi citizen who once fled with her family to Syria. Now she has come to know at firsthand the horrors to which so many Syrian families are exposed. Her home in the Jaramana area of greater Damascus was badly damaged in a bombardment by government helicopter gunships, though she and her two sons were thankfully unharmed.

But Deniz’s family faces a personal dilemma like that of so many of her Syrian clients; she and her sons are now considering a return to Baghdad, even though they have reason to doubt their future would be any more secure there.

Meanwhile, the work of getting food and other necessary items such as hygiene kits, bedding and infants’ supplies to displaced families flooding in from the provinces must continue, even as the security situation in the capital city gets ever more uncertain.

Your gift to International Disaster Relief UMCOR Advance # 982450 will help to sustain families fleeing the violence of Syria, and others in such need.

* David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media analyst and a regular contributor to umcor.org.

Your gift to International Disaster Relief UMCOR Advance # 982450 will help to sustain families fleeing the violence of Syria, and others in such need.