Elisabeth is Action Against Hunger's senior communications officer, reporting on our impact and current events around the world.
Syria: Three Years of Crisis
The Ides of March—it holds such an ominous place in our collective literary and social consciousness. Some we may chalk up to superstition. But some, it seems, is frighteningly all too real—tomorrow, March 15th, marks the third anniversary of the beginning of crisis in Syria. The numbers are staggering. More than 100,000 people have died, 2.5 million are refugees, and more than four million are internally displaced within their devastated home country.
A full-blown regional crisis
As bombings continue, more and more Syrians are seeking refuge abroad—much to the strain on their host nations. As it stands now, some 900,000 Syrians are in Lebanon, 613,000 in Turkey, 590,000 in Jordan, 222,600 in Iraq, and 133,000 in Egypt.
As such, the conflict has truly erupted into a regional one—and has unequivocally been dubbed by the NGO community as the worst humanitarian crisis of our generation. The countries bordering Syria, particularly Lebanon and Jordan, are feeling the weight of the constant flow of refugees. In Lebanon, for example, the more than 900,000 registered refugees represent nearly 25% of the host country’s population of four million. In areas close to the Syrian border, like Aarsal, the number of refugees far exceeds the population of native Lebanese.
A coordinated NGO response
According to Rob Drouen, a regional representative for Action Against Hunger in the Middle East, NGOs have stepped up as the main actors attempting to mitigate the crisis. Rob chairs the Board of the Regional Forum of NGOs in Syria, a 33-member group aiming to influence regional humanitarian policy.
Our teams are hard at work collaborating with governments to develop new services for refugees and host communities alike, and to support long-term interventions. We work through several coordination platforms, meeting with our colleague organizations to ensure proper coverage of food security, water, and nutrition programming throughout the region.
“The Syrian crisis has emerged as a regional crisis that affects not only refugees but also communities and host governments, and it can lead to more division.”
—Rob Drouen, Regional Representative-Middle East, Action Against Hunger
By coordinating with our peers to aim for a situation in which no needs go over- or under-met, we’ve designed a comprehensive suite of response services, being implemented throughout the region. This means our efforts may entail nutrition response in one location, and water and sanitation or food security efforts in another. From distributing meals, blankets, diapers and hygiene kits, to distributing water by truck, to providing livestock vaccinations and fodder, to building latrines and so much more—we’re taking a nuanced, community-based approach to response.
Real families, real stories
The numbers associated with this crisis are astounding, and it can make it hard to remember that individual families just like ours are the ones who are suffering—and the ones we are working so hard to help.
Five-year-old Rawan had her leg shattered by a missile when she was on her way to the market with her mother in Yabroud, Syria. "We were coming down the stairs towards the market, when the rocket exploded," her mother, Rasha, explained. The bomb exploded, spitting up thousands of fragments that embedded in the legs of both mother and daughter. Rasha’s husband died, and Rawan lost so much blood that she needed several transfusions and was comatose for three days.
Rawan and her mother have been placed in one of our settlements in Abo Noor, Lebanon, where we’re providing drinking water and sanitation structures for refugees. We’re also collaborating with Handicap International to try to secure Rawan a wheelchair.
Disoriented and living in difficult conditions, refugees like Rawan are extremely vulnerable—and we fear the deterioration of family units. That’s why we’ve also starting programming focused on protecting family ties and promoting community solidarity. It’s this combination of care—physical, social, and emotional—that we hope makes the difference for Rawan, Rasha, and the millions like them across the region.