A Syrian refugee family registering at a camp in northern Lebanon.
Photo courtesy of UNHCR (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees)
By David Tereshchuk *
July 16, 2012– As the Syria crisis deepens, it is - as all too often - ordinary families who are suffering most.
UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, has been aiding thousands of displaced people, mostly from cities that have become the scene of armed clashes, like Homs, Hama and Idib. They have all fled to take refuge in what they hope will be safer areas.
Many – estimated in their tens of thousands, but it is truly impossible to accurately count – have fled across the border into neighboring Turkey, and are being housed mostly in tented camps. In one locality, Kilis, just three miles from the Syrian border, they are being housed in a small ‘city’ made of shipping-containers. Recent Turkish government tracking of the population flow suggests that the uprooted Syrians in Turkey could now number considerably in excess of 30,000 - of whom it is reckoned 75 percent are women and children.
UMCOR’s Turkey-based partner organization, the International Blue Crescent (IBC), which has effective on-the-ground connections in Syria, has come to the aid of the displaced families. With the backing of UMCOR funds, IBC has been able to supply not only shelter (mainly tents) but much more besides, says IBC Vice-President Muzaffer Baca. Daily food packages (that include locally-procured ready-to-eat soups, milk powder and baby food) have been prepared, plus hygiene kits, mattresses, and clothes where needed.
IBC is also working to build local organizational capacity among the camps’ own communities, in case - as seems increasingly likely - their stay becomes a prolonged one.
With violence in Syria only continuing and worsening, relief personnel are working on a challenging scenario - that by the end of 2012 an estimated 185,000 Syrians (according to UN agencies’ predictions) will have fled across their country’s various borders.
Beside Turkey, UMCOR is now actively reviewing how best to assist in other parts in the region that are experiencing an influx of Syrian refugees. Attention is focusing on Lebanon (where already 29,000 refugees have arrived) and on the Kurdistan stretch of northern Iraq, where the initially expected arrival of 1,500 Syrians has now swollen to 7,000 or more.
Again, as in Turkey, help would mainly take the form of providing kits of basic essentials, both food and non-food items. It is envisaged that such kits will each meet the needs of a family of seven people for three weeks. That is, the food elements would offer 2,100 Kcal (kilocalories) per day, with 17% percent fat and 10 percent protein, in accordance with the “Sphere” standards generally accepted among global humanitarian organizations. The selection of food items would take into full account Syrian dietary habits, and could include rice, beans, and lentils.
And also as in Turkey, there will be a need to adopt approaches that empower the refugee communities themselves, and make the meeting of families’ needs a completely sustainable effort.
One factor that the refugee communities, the hosting neighbor countries, UMCOR and its international partners all recognize is that this massive population upheaval is not likely to end anytime soon.
At just one out of all five Syrian frontiers with its neighboring countries - the border adjoining Iraq - about a thousand Syrians a month are now being recorded in flight from their home-country, seeking safety.
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.