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Amal Mahmoud has lost her husband and her house in the war. Now she is fighting alone for the survival of her family in the ruins of Aleppo. ‘But my strength is ebbing away’, she says. A civil war has been raging in Syria since March 2011, with still no political solution in sight. The war has led to the greatest humanitarian disaster in history: According to UNOCHA, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 6.1 million Syrians are currently displaced in their own country. In Syria, a total of 13.1 million people depend on humanitarian aid. A further 5.5 million have sought refuge in neighbouring countries. Continuing violence, multiple displacements, destroyed livelihoods as well as a lack of access to services and everyday necessities drive people to the brink of exhaustion.
Due to massive underfunding of the necessary aid, the United Nations as well as the neighbouring countries are repeatedly forced to restrict their support for the refugees. The neighbouring countries can no longer cope with the influx of refugees and have closed their borders years ago. This means that at the moment, additionally, thousands of people are stranded in inaccessible no-man's-land or cross the border illegally and hence remain with hardly any support.
Since April 2012, Caritas Switzerland has carried out emergency aid projects with partner organisations in order to meet people’s most pressing needs. It has also continually expanded its work in the areas of education and income generation. Children make up half of the refugees. Often, they have no access to good quality education. The longer the people are unable to return home, the more important it is for them to be able to find ways of generating an income at their temporary place of residence so they do not become permanently dependent on emergency aid.
Emergency relief and education for vulnerable families and children affected by the war
The people in Syria are fighting for survival. Every day, more people are still being newly or repeatedly displaced from their homes than are returning to their place of residence. Caritas Switzerland has provided emergency relief since the beginning of the crisis in Syria, above all to meet basic needs. It currently supports people in Homs, Syria’s third largest city, with vouchers for food and hygiene items; but it also provides assistance with rents and basic medical care and improves local market access for 60 micro-enterprises.
With the civil war, school attendance has become very difficult for many children in Syria. There has been a massive increase in drop-out rates and interrupted education. That is why Caritas offers children safe learning opportunities concentrated in three social centres in Damascus, Aleppo and Tartus, which take account of their needs. It also offers further training for teaching staff.
Confronting impoverishment with emergency aid and income generation
Jordan currently provides shelter for 650 000 registered Syrian refugees, and approximately the same number of unregistered refugees. They are becoming increasingly impoverished but also increasingly vulnerable. Since 2012, Caritas Switzerland, has been providing assistance in four Jordanian provinces to cover basic needs, winter aid, emergency aid for hardship cases, and is improving the housing and hygiene conditions.
The longer the situation continues, the more important it is that the refugees and the local communities are strengthened in a sustainable manner. Since 2016, Caritas has provided vulnerable Syrian refugees and Jordanians with jobs in the waste disposal sector and is simultaneously helping to develop a sustainable waste management system. With a pilot project started in 2018, Caritas supports women in enhancing their income through milk processing.
Access to schooling, income generation and emergency aid through cash payments
No country in the world has more refugees per capita than Lebanon. Half of the refugee children do not go to school, or drop out. The schools are struggling to cope with the number of Syrian children, and the teachers are not adequately trained. Caritas Switzerland supports remedial tuition for refugee children and disadvantaged Lebanese children. It trains teachers and develops tools and guidance for teacher training.
More than a third of all Syrian refugees are accommodated in the very fertile Bekaa valley. A post-harvest marketing system helps Syrian and Lebanese farmers to generate higher returns and creates jobs for less qualified workers. Caritas also offers further training for farmers
Caritas Switzerland supports particularly vulnerable households in emergency situations with cash payments.
Winter is particularly hard for the people who have had to flee their country. Many live in shelters that offer no protection against the rain and the winter cold. Often, the wind whistles through the cracks, but there is no money to carry out even the smallest repairs. This leads to serious health risks and saps the strength of people who are often already weakened. For this reason, Caritas is providing specific aid in Jordan and Syria. As part of its emergency aid projects, and with an additional winter aid project in Jordan, we enable people to buy blankets, warm clothing, winter shoes and fuel. Existing housing is made winter-proof. Doors and windows are draught-proofed, roofs are repaired, boilers installed and mould is treated. In an emergency, we help with rent payments. The winter aid is benefitting a total of 5,350 particularly vulnerable people.