Palestinian refugee siblings Israa, Alaa, and Omar Diab had to leave Yarmouk Camp in Syria, and now live in one of Lebanon’s camps.
By David Tereshchuk *
November 13, 2012—The worsening ripple effects of Syria’s now full-fledged civil war cry out for international humanitarian response.
Among the communities worst hit are thousands of families whose living situation was never comfortable to begin with.
Palestinian refugees with “temporary” homes in Syria, notably in the Yarmouk Refugee Camp, which has existed close by the capital city Damascus since 1957, have become displaced all over again.
Yarmouk became a battlefield when the government’s army started raining down mortar shells on some of the camp’s 150,000 Palestinian residents, evidently on grounds that they gave support to Syria’s increasingly militant opposition.
The number of displaced persons from Syria fleeing to neighboring Lebanon has now reached well over 40,000—and it increases every day, with many of them (already an estimated 5,000) being Palestinian. They are largely joining their fellow-Palestinians across the border, since Lebanon also has a long-established Palestinian refugee population dating back to 1948.
UNRWA, the UN agency responsible for Palestinian refugees, currently estimates that this flow into Lebanon will increase to well over 10,000 refugees by the time winter fully arrives. Most of the families inevitably leave behind all of their belongings in their hasty escapes.
Many—perhaps the majority—are being hosted by Palestinian refugee friends and families already living in Lebanon’s camps—people who have hardly enough money to feed, clothe, and house their own families, let alone the flood of new arrivals.
UN agencies, including the cash-strapped UNRWA, are not in a position to help further, and have been urgently requesting nongovernmental organizations to step in with help, and especially with badly needed humanitarian supplies.
UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, is supporting a partner organization, American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA), which has worked in the region for more than 40 years, in fresh efforts to bring bedding, health kits, school kits, and layette kits to the displaced families.
This month a 40-foot container of such supplies from UMCOR’s Sager Brown Depot in Baldwin, Louisiana, will be dispatched to Lebanon. Jennifer Ibrahim of ANERA says, “We hope that this volume of supplies will be sufficient to cover the majority of the Palestinian refugee families from Syria—and the families that are hosting them.”
School kits are especially needed since a new school year has begun and children have been starting afresh in a wholly changed and challenging learning environment. Lebanon’s already overcrowded UNRWA-provided schools are being enormously stretched by the greatly increased need, and now have to operate a double shift for lessons every day.
The health-kits provision aims to ensure that refugees and their host families maintain proper hygiene during their added upheaval, to prevent sickness from occurring and spreading. And the layettes kits will, it is hoped, support new mothers whose babies are being born in unfamiliar and daunting conditions far from home.
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 www.umcor.org.