Trócaire Blog


October 21, 2015

Fadi's story: A Syrian refugee living in Lebanon

By Noelle Fitzpatrick, Trócaire's Syria Humanitarian Officer 

Fadi is a Syrian refugee living in Lebanon, before the war he had a good life in Syria - he was an engineer and enjoyed living with his family and close to his friends.

He never wanted to leave home but as he watched his country implode around him and the death toll rise from thousands to hundreds of thousands he had no option but to make the tragic decision to leave his country, a decision so familiar to so many Syrian people.

Noelle FitzgeraldMy name is Noelle Fitzpatrick, I am Trócaire's Humanitarian Officer and I have met Fadi, and many others who are living in refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan. Many of them have nothing but the clothes on their backs.


Today, Fadi lives in Lebanon. His home is only a two hour journey away and although he longs to travel back to his country, he knows it is a journey that he cannot make.

Although highly qualified and experienced, Fadi can only find casual labour and struggles to earn enough money to survive. He desperately wants to go home to restart the life he left behind. But as long as the war rages on, that is not possible.

Like many others, he is now so desperate that he is considering risking his life to get to Europe.

“I die a little bit every day here,” he told me. “If there is even a 50% chance of making it alive to Europe, it is a risk worth taking.”

refugee settlement in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley

Distributing aid to Syrian refugees living in a refugee settlement in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. Photo: Patrick Nicholson / Caritas Internationalis

For Fadi and the 1.1 million Syrians now living in Lebanon, the prospect of returning home has now become little more than a distant dream.

When I meet Syrian refugees living in Lebanon and Jordan, I am often struck by the similarities in their stories: the good jobs left behind, the homes abandoned, the family members missing or dead, the struggle to survive. 

What strikes me most, however, is that their dignity has been undermined. These people are used to working hard and providing for their families but are now compelled to accept hand-outs or search for casual labour to earn whatever money they can.

Duaak with her friends at the camp for Syrian refugees where they live.

Nine-year-old Duaak (red t-shirt) with her friends at the camp for Syrian refugees where they live. Duaak and her family fled Syria after several of their neighbours were killed in a rocket attack in Syria. Photo: Joêlle El Dib / Caritas Lebanon

For almost five years Syrians have taken shelter in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan but as the war rolls on, the number of people fleeing continue to rise.

There are 1.1 million Syrians in Lebanon, 1.9 million in Turkey, 630,000 in Jordan and 250,000 in Iraq. Many are leaving with nothing but hope of finding safety for their families.

Donate now

Thanks to the tremendous support of people throughout Ireland, Trócaire has been providing food and shelter to Syrian refugees, as well as people who have remained in Syria since 2013. We are also providing trauma support to those affected by the conflict.

This support is a vital lifeline to Syrians and other refugees in the Middle East who are struggling to cope with the impacts of displacement and war.Providing food and shelter to refugees in the Middle East

Donate now


October 13, 2015

Increase in overseas development assistance a welcome step

Trócaire has welcomed the Government’s decision to increase the overseas development assistance budget, saying the decision put Ireland on the right path towards meeting international commitments after several years of decline.

The Government today announced that it will provide a total of €640 million for development assistance in 2016, an increase of €40 million on 2015.

“This signals a welcome end to the years of cuts to the overseas aid budget that have had a cruel impact on some of the world’s poorest people," said Trócaire Executive Director Éamonn Meehan. "With the domestic economy appearing to improve after years of recession, the Government should be congratulated for beginning the process of returning Ireland’s overseas assistance to previous levels. Ireland’s overseas aid is recognized as a world leader in terms of impact and value and has an incredible impact on some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.”

refugee settlement in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley

Irish support for vulnerable people overseas is recognised as a world leader in terms of impact and value. It brings vital aid, relief and support to people affected by conflict, poverty and climate change across Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. 


Trócaire has also called for a road map to outline how Ireland will reach its international commitment of spending 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) on overseas assistance, as recently reaffirmed by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in a speech to the United Nations. Ireland’s current spend on overseas development assistance stands at just 0.35% of Gross National Income.

“The increase announced will begin to restore Ireland’s reputation and will have a hugely positive impact for people suffering the impacts of climate change, poverty and conflict. However, we remain far off our international commitment of spending a mere 70 cent for every €100 of State revenue on assisting the world’s most vulnerable people. Ireland needs a plan, including year-on-year benchmarks, to reach this international commitment.

“We must remember that we are not talking about mere percentage points but real people’s lives. Ireland recently received huge international plaudits for co-facilitating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) process, which has delivered 17 global anti-poverty targets, but unless countries meet international funding obligations these targets will not be met. Ireland showed leadership to chair the SDG process, we now need to show leadership by actually funding the delivery of the targets.”

Read Trócaire's pre-budget submission.

October 12, 2015

We learnt that women can lead - one woman's tale of transformation in DRC

At the moment she was elected Chief of her village, Dzve Tsolosi could look into the distance and see the bushes where she had once hidden in fear of her life. 

She had been forced from her home in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), left with nothing and had lost six children to the conflict that raged all around her, but Dzve had rebuilt her life to the point where she was now the leader of the village she had once fled from. 

It is a remarkable transformation led by a remarkable woman. 

Dzve fled her home at a time when armed groups terrorised the country, moving from village to village killing and attacking innocent people.

When armed groups attacked, Dzve would gather her children and hide in the bushlands. On one occasion, however, she did not have time to gather all her children, three of whom were left behind. She later learned that they had been murdered. 

“I learnt from others that they had been killed by machete,” she says. “I never saw their bodies.”

Over five million people were killed during the war that engulfed DRC between 1998 and 2003. 

Dzve and her children spent three years in hiding. As conflict raged all around them, they faced hunger and disease on a daily basis.

Three of her children did not survive - “I could not feed them or care for them properly,” she says. 

Dzve Tsolosi from Democratic Republic of Congo

Dzve Tsolosi in her village in Democratic Republic of Congo. Over five million people were killed during the war that engulfed DRC between 1998 and 2003. (Photo: Virginie Vuylsteke / Trócaire)

When the fighting in her area eased, Dzve moved back to her village only to find it had been completely destroyed. 

“We had no belongings anymore,” she says. “I worked on the fields of those who had returned to the village before me. I struggled to feed myself. I had no cooking utensils.”

What changed Dzve’s life was a literacy project in her village funded by Trócaire and the European Union. Levels of illiteracy in the area are extremely high. Dzve saw other women in her village attending the literacy classes and decided that she also wanted to learn how to read and write. 

“I saw the others learning to write their names and the advantage it gave them,” she says. “On top of learning how to read and write, they learned about their rights and how to vote.

I learnt to analyse and discuss problems of my area. Before, women would not participate. It is thanks to the training that they started to give their opinion. We learnt that women can lead.”

Literacy training in Democratic Republic of Congo

Dzve Tsolosi (left) at the literacy training course for women. "We learnt that women can lead," she says. (Photo: Virginie Vuylsteke / Trócaire)

Not only has this training given Dzve and the other women in the village vital literacy skills, it has completely transformed how they participate in village life. They have found their voices. 

“One day the Centre Chief said our village needed to have a proper Chief, so he put down two chairs,” says Dzve. “People suggested that my son-in-law become chief so he sat down on one of the chairs. Because I had learned at the literacy centre that women can lead, I sat down on the other chair. They threw flowers at me and since then I am the village Chief.”

Just a few years after having to flee in fear of her life, Dzve is now the elected leader of her village. 

Although the country is formally at peace, many armed gangs still operate throughout the eastern part of the country. Projects such as this bring communities together, strengthen women’s rights and give power back to people who for so long had none. This is some of the most meaningful impact you can have in a community rebuilding after the horrors of war. 

Other women in Dzve’s area are now benefiting from the same project with the support of the European Union. However, more is needed for women in neighbouring areas to learn how to read and write and rebuild their communities.

For Dzve, the future is now one full of opportunity. She has ambitious plans for her village. 

“I know now the importance of school,” she says. “The closest school is seven kilometres away. Parents are afraid to send their children. I want to have a school in the village. There is also no health centre. We need one because people have to go too far for their children’s medical care and to give birth.” 

By providing the opportunity to learn literacy skills, we have helped to give Dzve and the women of her village an entirely new outlook on life. 

They are no longer scared. Instead, they are leading efforts to rebuild their village, invest in the children and ensure the next generation do not have to experience the pain and suffering that tore this area apart for so long. 

The Democratic Republic of Congo is the second poorest country on Earth. Find out more about Trócaire's work in DRC

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October 09, 2015

Everything you wanted to know about the Climate Bill but were afraid to ask

Why is the Climate Bill back in the news?

The Bill – officially called the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill – is one step closer to being made law after the Dáil voted to approve it on Thursday. The Bill will now go to Seanad Éireann and, provided it is approved by Senators, will then be cleared to be signed into law. 

Why is this important?

The passing of this Bill into law is extremely important because it means that Ireland will, for the first time, have legislation relating to climate change. Once the Bill is passed, work can begin on developing Ireland’s National Low Carbon Transition & Mitigation Plan, which will plot a pathway to turn Ireland into a low carbon society. 

What is Trócaire’s involvement in this?

We have been campaigning for climate legislation for eight years. Much of Trócaire’s work is dealing with the impacts of climate change on communities in the developing world. Many people in the countries we work in are facing increasingly prolonged droughts and extreme weather, making it extremely difficult for them to grow food. 

While Ireland’s contribution to global climate change may be relatively small, we are one of the highest per capita polluters in the world so it is important that we take the steps necessary to play our part in tackling this global challenge. 

Campaigners calling for climate legislation

Campaigners calling for climate legislation outside Dáil Éireann in 2012.


So we should be really happy with this Bill?

Well, we’re very happy that the Bill is on the verge of being passed but we would have liked it to be stronger in some areas. Our main concern is that the transition and mitigation plan is not due to be revealed for 18 months after the Bill is passed – in other words, most likely the middle of 2017 - which we believe is too long of a gap. 

On the plus side, the Government has agreed to insert a commitment to climate justice into the Bill, which underlines the fact that Ireland’s responsibility in tackling climate change stems from the need to protect the most vulnerable. 

While we don’t think the Bill is perfect, the important thing is that Ireland will have a platform to begin to take action. 

What happens next?

The Bill goes to Seanad Éireann for debate and will hopefully pass smoothly, allowing it to be passed into law over the coming weeks. Any delay at Seanad stage could cause a problem if the general election is called for before Christmas – if the Dáil term ends before getting to debate Seanad amendments it would not be signed into law before the election. 

Provided it is signed into law, is that the end of Trócaire’s climate change campaign?

Absolutely not! Ireland still has so much work to do. We are not on track to meet our EU emission reduction commitments for 2030 so the National Low Carbon Transition & Mitigation Plan will be absolutely vital. 

Ireland’s commitment to provide new and additional climate finance to assist those in need is still unclear. In line with the principle of climate justice, Ireland must make a strong climate finance commitment to support vulnerable communities in the developing world who are already disproportionately impacted by climate change.

Internationally, the UN Climate Summit in Paris in December is incredibly important. We will be joining the millions of people around the world who are calling for global leaders to take decisive climate action.

What can we do to help?

You can take to the streets of Dublin on November 29th – along with the Stop Climate Chaos network, we are organising a public rally on the eve of the Paris summit to call on politicians to prioritise the future of our planet. Sign-up on the Dublin Climate March and stay informed of our work on climate justice

October 05, 2015

'Life is a nightmare' - Gaza human rights lawyer speaks out

He has been jailed and tortured, lived through wars and spent over 30 years documenting human rights abuses, so when Raji Sourani describes the current situation in his native Gaza as “a nightmare” his words suggest just how bad the situation has become. 

Having spent over three decades as a human rights lawyer in Gaza, you could be forgiven for expecting that he would have become almost immune to the suffering and misery of the people living there. However, Raji’s voice still quivers with emotion as he tries to put into words the extent to which the Gazan people’s lives have become defined by poverty, hopelessness and conflict. 

With severe restrictions in place on what is allowed into Gaza and who is allowed leave, as well as cyclical military conflicts that have reduced entire neighbourhoods to rubble, Raji paints a picture of a people trapped in a cycle of ever-worsening misery and hopelessness. 

“It is a nightmare that sometimes I don't believe we're going through,” he said during his short visit to Ireland last week as guest of Trócaire and Christian Aid. “You can imagine: I'm sick and I need medical care and I cannot leave. I want to go and study outside, I cannot leave. I'm a businessman, I cannot do any sort of business to import or export. I'm a worker and I'm unemployed and this affects my wife and my family. 

“It is endless negative impacts on the lives of people, and if it's that only that's fine but you have death coming from the sky. Three major wars in five years. There is reasons for people to be depressed, for people to be angry. There are people who believe in the law of the jungle. There are reasons not to believe in tomorrow. You are taking tomorrow from the hearts and minds of the people.”

As Director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), Raji’s work for human rights in the region has received much international recognition. PCHR has been awarded several distinctions, including the French Republic Human Rights Award, the Bruno Krejsky Prize for Outstanding Achievements in the Area of Human Rights and the International Service Human Rights Award. 

Raji himself was awarded the Right Livelihood Award – often referred to as the ‘Alternative Noble Prize’ – in 2013 for his “unwavering dedication to the rule of law and human rights under exceptionally difficult circumstances”. 

Raji SouraniRaji Sourani Destruction in Gaza

Raji Sourani (left) was in Ireland as guest of Trócaire and Christian Aid. Many areas of Gaza remain devastated from last summer's war.

While in Ireland last week Raji gave three public talks – one in Belfast and two in Dublin – and met with the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade to discuss the ongoing humanitarian and human rights crisis in Gaza.  

He stressed that the poverty, hopelessness and desperation felt in Gaza is entirely a man-made crisis, caused by the severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods, as well as the cyclical military destruction of Gaza. 

"We have one of the highest percentages in the world of university graduates,” he says. “[We have] no illiteracy, a very skilled working class and a strong business community [but] we are not able to do anything - to import, to export, even to treat our water or sewage. The international community dumps food and medicine. You live like an animal on a farm. That is not us…What we need in my part of the world is the rule of law, not the rule of the jungle.”

LISTEN: Raji Sourani, Director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), speaks to Trócaire about the difficulties facing ordinary people in Gaza as a result of the blockade and the ongoing conflict.

Trócaire has worked in Palestine and Israel since 2002, supporting local organisations working for peace and justice in the region. Find out more about Trócaire's work in Israel and Palestine.