Strengthening the resilience of the population in Homs affected by the war

Caritas is helping families affected by the war in Homs to meet their basic needs. Homs has suffered some of the worst destruction in Syria. Support is provided for displaced people, but also for local families in need. The aid is adapted to the individual situation of each household, and includes electronic vouchers for food and hygiene products, as well as assistance with rent and medical expenses. In addition, the project supports 60 micro-enterprises with material, tools and further training, thus improving their access to the local markets.


Country / Region / Place
Homs, Syria

Target group
Internally displaced people and local communities affected by the conflict

Funding requirement
577,302 Swiss francs

Project duration
15.10.2018 to 31.05.2020

Project number

Project objective
Meeting the basic humanitarian needs of at least 1,485 families, income generation for 60 micro-enterprises, promotion of innovative methods of humanitarian aid (electronic vouchers and cash payments)

Project coordinator
Richard Asbeck, Tel: 041 419 22 29, rasbecknot shown@caritasto make life hard for spam


Background information

After so-called Islamic State was largely suppressed in 2017, the Syrian government, with the help of its allies, extended its control over large parts of the country in 2018. This led to new displacements, whose end is not yet in sight. After the crushing of armed opposition groups in Afrin, eastern Ghouta and Dara’a, large numbers of newly, or repeatedly, displaced Syrians arrived in these three regions in the first half of 2018. Further displacements, and the resulting pressures on the public infrastructure, are to be expected in the future, in view of the ongoing clashes between government and opposition.

At the same time, the number of people who are cautiously returning to their home towns and villages, following a reduction in armed violence, is slowly growing. As yet, these are voluntary returnees who were mostly displaced inside Syria. At the same time, the neighbouring countries are increasingly less willing to accommodate Syrian refugees in large numbers. For example, the internal Lebanese security authorities have already started to set up centres, in a move to push for the return of Syrian refugees. 

Many internally displaced people and returnees are heading for the city of Homs. From the start of the conflict Homs, Syria’s third-largest city, was the site of violent clashes between the Syrian government forces and the opposition. Today, Homs is one of the most heavily destroyed towns in the country. Of the 1.4 million people who once lived there, more than half have been displaced or killed. According to estimates, around 83% of the buildings were at least partially destroyed. The families who returned to the old city after the end of the fighting have lost everything and live in great poverty, under the most difficult conditions. Small shops have reopened amidst the ruins. But the economic crisis prevents a return to normality. 

Against this background, humanitarian aid remains essential – the situation continues to be precarious in all sectors. According to current estimates, 43 per cent of the population of Homs depend on food aid, and 63 per cent of households in Homs find it extremely difficult to pay their monthly rent. Moreover, around three quarters of children under the age of 5 suffer from respiratory diseases. Three quarters of pregnant women suffer from pregnancy-related illnesses. Households can barely afford soap and hygiene products. Shrinking savings and a lack of income from work make it difficult to meet basic needs, and reinforce negative strategies such as child labour and reduced food intake. 

Caritas has provided humanitarian aid in Syria since the beginning of the crisis, and supported the most vulnerable population groups. So far, more than 500,000 people affected by the conflict have received help. In Homs, Caritas plans to continue its emergency relief and additionally focus on aspects of promoting micro-enterprises.


What are we doing?

Since the start of the Syrian crisis, Caritas Switzerland has, in cooperation with its local partner organisations, provided emergency relief for Syrian refugees in the neighbouring countries as well as in Syria itself. In Homs and the surrounding villages, Caritas helps vulnerable families to meet their basic needs. Support is provided to internally displaced people as well as to local families in need. 

Furthermore, Caritas Switzerland fosters the capacity of its sister organisation Caritas Syria in order to enhance efficiency, transparency and effectiveness, as well as the satisfaction of the beneficiaries, through the use of innovative methods. This is achieved with the use of electronic vouchers which are administered via a modern, cloud-based data platform. This allows the aid provision to be coordinated via data synchronisation with the support from other donors and achieve a more effective use of the funds.  In addition, the beneficiaries have greater autonomy, thanks to the use of vouchers, in deciding what to buy. 

In the eighth year of the Syria crisis, and with the start of a cautious return of refugees and internally displaced people to Homs, Caritas Switzerland is adapting its intervention to the changing situation and is starting to promote employment measures. The present project will support 60 micro-enterprises with materials, tools and further training in order to facilitate their access to local markets. The enterprises are selected on the basis of a competitive tender and after presentation of the commercial basis and the joint elaboration of a business plan.

However, emergency relief remains the central level of intervention in this project. The aid is tailored to the individual situation of the households and covers a broad range of needs. 

The basic needs of 1,545 households are secured for a period of one year through electronic vouchers for food and hygiene products. These vouchers are accepted by selected businesses and cover a relevant contribution of the families’ basic needs. They are distributed at regular intervals via smartcards (cash cards). It means that the families can choose which food items they need and want to buy. 
Because of the massive scale of destruction, appropriate and affordable living space is scarce, and people partly live in public squares or unused schools. To enable them to afford appropriate accommodation, 200 families will be assisted for one year with payments for their accommodation costs. 
1,045 households with sick or injured family members are given support to pay for the cost of their treatment. The treatment costs are paid directly to the relevant hospitals, after checking and assessment of need.
With its activities, Caritas wants to contribute to improving the living conditions of particularly vulnerable families in Homs and the surrounding area. Experienced social workers reach the neediest families through their public outreach work in the city and the surrounding communities, meet them in the Caritas Centre and assess their individual needs. This ensures that they receive exactly the help they need. The destruction, the unstable security situation and the difficulty of reaching other city districts make the work for Caritas in Homs difficult and challenging. That is why for Caritas Switzerland, an important part of the project is to support and strengthen the local Caritas through targeted professional development and training measures.


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