Tag Archives: Syrian refugees

Syria Crisis: More than just a quilt

Fatima picks a quilt. Credit: Caritas Jordan

By Dana Shahin, Caritas Jordan

Fatima is a widow who recently fled the conflict in Syria to seek refuge in Jordan. She came to the Caritas Jordan centre in Mafraq where she would be able to receive essential help.

Once she’d registered with a Caritas staff member, she headed over to the volunteer’s desk to receive her aid items such as blankets, quilts and personal hygiene products.

There were large boxes consisting of different coloured quilts. The volunteers usually picks one or two, depending on the family size, and hand them over to the refugees.

Fatima, after taking her package, approached one of the volunteers. With a shy quiet voice, she asked, “Is it ok if I choose another quilt? I don’t like this colour.”

The Caritas team told her to pick another one. With a thrilled expression on her face , she ran happily to the box and took few minutes to pick the one she liked.

“This is my favourite colour, is it ok to have this one instead?” Fatima held proudly a blue quilt. “Of course,” said the volunteer. “This is actually yours and you have the right to get the one that you like most”.

A Caritas Jordan staff member said that they ensure all the refugees are treated with dignity. They’re not simply ‘beneficiaries’ but human people.

“There is a strong belief within Caritas Jordan volunteers and employees that aid distribution is part of an act of love done for and with all the people in need. They make up the patchwork quilt that is Caritas,” said one Caritas Jordan emergency staff member.

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Life after Syria

“I thank Caritas every day for the assistance we received”

Three months ago, Sanaa gave birth alone in her house, just a few days after arriving in Lebanon from Syria. She, her husband and their two young children ran away from heavy shelling .They are from Hama and did not know anyone in Lebanon.

“We had no money to eat and we got scared for the children,” she said. “We know the situation will not get better soon in Syria”.

A few years ago, her husband had an accident. Since then, he cannot move his right hand and has severe memory loss. Sometimes, he does not recognise his own wife. Despite this disability, he found a job as a gardener. But the salary is low and they cannot even afford nappies for their new born.

The family was referred to Caritas Lebanon by a former municipality member in the Bekaa. They had never heard of Caritas before coming to the office. “I wanted milk and nappies for my baby, medical assistance for my husband and food” she admitted. Although Caritas could not meet all her expectations – the family received a food kit, bed sheets, blankets, towels and one hygiene kit and were told about the mobile clinic.

Sanaa remains deeply grateful. “I thank Caritas every day for the assistance we received” she said with a smile.

Bitten by rats

Mohammed lives with 25 members of his family in Lebanon’s Bekka valley. They all fled the shelling and fighting between the rebels and the army in Hama a few months ago.

“The situation became too dangerous because deserters from Homs hide in Hama. So we decided to leave,” Mohammed tells the Caritas social worker conducting the home visit.

For LL 400,000 (US $260) per month they live in two dilapidated houses in unsanitary conditions. One month ago, 2 children (7 months old and 2 years old) and their mother were bitten by rats at night. Even though they did not have any money to see a doctor, the closest hospital treated them for free.

Notwithstanding their poor living conditions in Lebanon, they do not want to go back to Syria before the situation improves. “I don’t want to go to back to the border even when our visas expire,” he says.

Mohammed’s family will be able to stay in Lebanon until the situation calms down in Syria, the government is committed to not arresting Syrians for illegal overstay. But in order to carry on until they can return, they sought Caritas’ assistance and received food kits, blankets, bed sheets and pillowcase.

Child health

Last June, Raghida decided to leave Syria with her 7 children as life became impossible there. “We hoped that the battle would stop, so we waited . But it got worse,” she said.

When everyone started leaving she followed. She is now living with her children in a tent along with another Syrian family, in precarious conditions. They survived thanks to the help and generosity of some Lebanese people and donations.

Later she found out about Caritas through a neighbour, so she went to the centre in the Bekka valley in the hope of getting medicine for her children.“ I cannot stand not being able to give medicine to my children,” she told a Caritas social worker .

Since she has been directed to the Caritas mobile Clinic and is now provided with nursing care and medicine for her family. She also received a food kit, hygiene kit and bed sheets .

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Escaping bullets and bombs in Syria

As Syria refugees pour into Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon, Caritas is giving them food, medical care, and emergency aid. Ilham, a mother of five, described a harrowing day in her home city to Caritas Communications Officer Laura Sheahen.

Ilham was shot in the leg after a sniper killed her neighbour as he returned bringing milk for her children. She later fled Syria with her children. Photo: Laura Sheahen/Caritas

I have nothing to do with the military, I am a civilian. We’re from Bab Amr, in Homs.

One day I wanted to go get milk. My neighbour Adnan said, “Don’t go, I’ll bring you milk. I’m afraid you’ll be killed.” The snipers shoot from a long distance. We don’t see the shooter, but he sees us.

It was about 2 pm and Adnan was bringing the milk to me, two containers. A shooter was up in a building in a small window.

He was shot. The bullet went through his arm to his heart.

I went out to try to save Adnan. The person who shot him also shot me, to prevent me from reaching him. The bullet went through my left thigh. I was lucky it didn’t hit the bone.

Some people came to help. I said, “Go to him first, he’s bleeding so much.” But the medical services are bad, no one could save him.

I hopped to other neighbours and they tied a bandage around my leg.

I kept hoping things would improve. But my house was bombarded three times. I slept in my clothes and headscarf because I was afraid we’d have to run out at night, or someone would come in.

We left for Damascus, but then bombardments began there. I thought, “It’s becoming too bad.” I was afraid my children would be killed. I realized we had to leave.

Now we live here in Jordan.

Ilham speaks with Caritas Jordan staff in the doctor’s office of a Caritas center. Photo: Laura Sheahen/Caritas

I have epilepsy, and so do three of my children. My daughter has seizures twice a day. She foams at the mouth and her whole body becomes stiff.

Here in Jordan, my neighbours told me about Caritas. I am going to talk to the Caritas doctor about epilepsy medicine. If this doctor wasn’t here, I don’t know what I’d do.

I didn’t want to leave my country, but I was afraid for my kids.

Adnan had five children. We were neighbours, and like family. May he rest in peace.

Caritas is helping thousands of refugees like Ilham. Read more about the crisis and consider donating.

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Fleeing Syria: refugee parents tell their stories

Available in French

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

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Volunteers in Jordan help with influx of Syrian refugees

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

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Caritas aid reaches Syrian refugees in Lebanon


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

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Caritas aids Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan

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.

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