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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 the United Nations (UNOCHA), 6.2 million Syrians are displaced in their own country. In Syria, a total of 11.7 million people depend on humanitarian aid. At least 5.6 million others have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, which places a huge burden on social cohesion as well as on public services in the host countries.
Multiple displacements, destroyed livelihoods, as well as lack of access to services and everyday necessities have led to extremely difficult living conditions. Insecurity and the lack of long-term prospects drive people, after nine years of conflict, always between hope and fear, to the brink of exhaustion. At present, the conditions for a coordinated return of the refugees are still not in place
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 for vulnerable families and education for children
The people in Syria are fighting for survival. Caritas Switzerland has provided emergency relief since the beginning of the crisis, above all to meet basic needs. It currently supports families in Aleppo and Damascus with cash assistance. They receive monthly payments for a year while local partner organisations are strengthened. Caritas is helping people in need in Homs to pay for food and rent and is improving access to local markets.
Due to the war, there has been a massive increase in school drop-out rates and interrupted education. That is why Caritas offers children safe learning opportunities, tailored to their needs, in three social centres in Damascus, Aleppo and Tartus, and offers further training for teaching staff, particularly in dealing with traumatised children. In the Eastern Ghouta region, which has been particularly hard hit by the war, Caritas is rebuilding destroyed schools and providing psychosocial and learning support.
Confronting impoverishment with emergency aid and income generation
Jordan currently provides shelter for more than 650 000 registered Syrian refugees, and approximately the same number of unregistered refugees. The labour and housing market is stretched to its limits in an already structurally weak country. Poverty is on the rise and the people are increasingly vulnerable.
Since 2012, Caritas Switzerland has provided aid in four provinces to cover basic needs and to promote income opportunities. Today, Caritas supports families in improving and securing their housing conditions.
Schooling, income generation and emergency aid by cash payments
No country in the world has more refugees per capita than Lebanon. Schools are struggling to cope and the quality of teaching leaves much to be desired. Caritas trains teachers using a student-centred teaching model to create a good learning environment for refugee children and disadvantaged Lebanese children. It is a model that must conform to the official education system.
A post-harvest marketing system for potatoes helps Syrian and Lebanese farmers in the very fertile Bekaa valley to increase the value of their crops and create jobs for low-skilled workers. Caritas is also training farmers to improve potato yield and quality.
Caritas Switzerland supports particularly vulnerable households in emergency situations with cash payments.
Since 2012 Caritas Switzerland has provided aid for the victims of the Syrian war amounting to a total of 62,8 million Swiss francs (including projects which are currently running). Around 584,000 people have benefited from the aid until the end of 2019. Swiss Solidarity supports the Caritas projects.