United Methodist Committee on Relief


Syria - Help for Refugees
A family that fled Syria takes refuge in Turkey. Credit: Courtesy of IBC

By David Tereshchuk*

April 16, 2013—As Syria’s bloody fighting shows no imminent sign of ending, families who flee the conflict are in desperate need wherever they seek refuge.

And the neighboring countries that provide safe havens are inevitably getting more hard-pressed themselves.

While the international community has established funds under United Nations’ auspices to support both internally displaced Syrians and those—almost a million people now—who have fled to Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, it is already clear that the allotted assistance will not be enough to cover estimated needs beyond June of this year.

“Needs are rising exponentially, and we are broke," Marixie Mercado of the U.N. Children's Fund, UNICEF, said earlier this month.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is doing its part to help fill the gap. A new range of grants has been extended to partner agencies in the region, including the Turkey-based International Blue Crescent (IBC) and the 130-member ACT Alliance. ACT works through its regionally active members such as International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC).

UMCOR’s help extends even to Armenia—a refugee destination not often reported in the Western media, but one that is vital for Syria’s sizeable Armenian community, whose security the ongoing violence has seriously threatened. More than 2,000 Armenian-Syrian families (approximately 7,000 individuals) have fled their Syrian homes to seek safety in Armenia—even though that country is poorly placed to support such an influx.

In the words of UMCOR Associate General Secretary for International Programs Melissa Crutchfield: “The poor and marginalized are often the first to be pushed even farther into the margins when civil disruptions happen.”

This is indeed the challenge to which UMCOR is rising, as it works to ease the suffering that results from Syria’s conflict. The funds provide basic humanitarian aid for families in need of health resources, food basics, hygiene items, clothing, and household goods, as well as to measures to help with the psycho-social wellbeing of those who have been uprooted. The upheaval involved for any family often is far beyond the comprehension of people who have not suffered it.

UMCOR also is directing its aid toward the host communities. While Armenia’s financial ability, for instance, to provide for its incoming refugees is extremely limited, Lebanon, too—with its already enormous Middle East refugee population—is now finding itself burdened as never before. Lebanon’s officially registered share of refugees soared to more than 400,000 this week, according to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. And of course the real figure is likely to be considerably greater than the official number.

“We are fortunate to have such a strong network of trusted partners responding both to the needs of those displaced, and to the ripple effect and its impact on the surrounding host communities,” says Crutchfield. “As always, this type of situation tends to affect those who are already vulnerable, creating even bigger challenges for them.”

Your gift to International Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance # 982450, will help families fleeing the violence in Syria and the communities that host them.

David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media critic, and a regular contributor to

Your gift to International Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance # 982450, will help families fleeing the violence in Syria and the communities that host them.