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Eleven-year-old Salem, a refugee boy, drew this picture showing what happened in Syria before his family fled for Lebanon. Photo: Laura Sheahen/Caritas
By Laura Sheahen, Caritas Communications Officer
“We’d move from neighbour to neighbour to escape the bombing,” says Ahmed, a father of six from the Syrian city of Homs. As civil war in his country escalated, he watched buildings bombarded and people injured or killed.
“There came a moment when I looked at my children and thought, ‘nothing matters but them.’ I knew we had to leave.”
If they only had themselves to worry about, thousands of Syrian parents might take their chances and stay in their country even as bombs drop and snipers fire. “If it were not for my children, I would never have left Syria. I should be there,” says Ahmed. Instead, he took his family to Jordan.
Ilham, an epileptic mother of six, was shot in the leg by a sniper. But for several months after, she remained in Syria. “I didn’t want to leave my country,” she says. Finally, though, it wasn’t about her: “I was afraid my kids would be killed.” She too fled to Jordan. Continue reading
Caritas Jordan volunteers packing aid for Syrian refugees in at the Caritas centre in Mafraq. Photo by Caritas Jordan.
By Caritas Internationalis and Caritas Jordan staff
“I like to help others,” said Madleen Qandah, a 21 years old mathematics student in Mafraq. She is volunteering with Caritas Jordan as it aids Syrian refugees fleeing violence in their own country. “I just put myself in the refugees’ shoes and treat them how I would like to be treated in the same situation,” she said.
Around 500 refugees arrive a day in Jordan according to various relief agencies. The Jordanian government says the number of Syrian refugees in the country has surpassed 110,000 people.
The influx of Syrians is putting huge pressures on the Jordanian economy and housing capacity. The country is also hosting 450,000 Iraqi refugees according to the government, who fled the conflict in Iraq that began in 2003.
Working mainly in Mafraq, Caritas Jordan teams have provided 500 families with aid such as heaters, bedding, towels, plastic mats, sanitary pads, jerry cans, milk, school and kits, hygienic kits and food since December 2011. Continue reading
By Patrick Nicholson
“The situation is bad,” said Fatima*. She had arrived from Syria into Lebanon that morning with five of her seven children. They’d fled from Kosayr, a suburb of Homs that’s currently undergoing heavy shelling as fighting continues between the government and opposition forces.
Her husband stayed on while her teenage boys were stopped from leaving. She and the rest of the children had walked two hours across the border. They’re staying in a bare concrete storeroom, normally used for farm equipment.
The refugees brought nothing with them. Snow still covers the mountains of the Bekaa Valley. It’s cold and windy in the remote rural border area. There are two mats on the floor of the room and a crate of empty cola bottles. There is no heating.
Caritas Lebanon is carrying out an aid distribution in Bekaa and gives them a box of food, with pasta, rice, oil and other bare essentials. It should last at least a month. Continue reading
The Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center is distributing hygiene items like soap to families who fled Syria. Photo courtesy of Caritas Lebanon
As violence in Syria continues, thousands of its people have streamed into the neighbouring countries of Lebanon and Jordan. “Syrians are approaching Caritas offices on a daily basis, asking for help,” according to a recent Caritas Jordan field report. “Every day, there are new Syrians crossing the border into Jordan.”
Governments, charities, and host families are struggling to find housing, food and school space for the refugees. In Lebanon, “the majority of refugees are staying in host families that are already poor and living in difficult conditions,” says Najla Chahda of the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center. “As a result, many hygiene problems are appearing.”
In both countries, Caritas is distributing essential items to refugee families. The Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center has given out blankets, underwear, baby items, and hygiene kits to thousands of people. Caritas Jordan is coordinating the distribution of milk and has started giving aid parcels to Syrian families in the town of Ramtha.
In Mafraq, a Jordanian city near the border with Syria, the United Nations is opening a refugee camp. Caritas social workers in Mafraq city say that rent help and food are at the top of the requested needs of refugees. Infant formula and baby diapers are also needed, along with medical care for refugees with chronic conditions.