Fleeing Syrians arrive in Turkey and Lebanon in urgent need of support. They arrive hungry, fearful and often traumatised.
They have witnessed first-hand the devastating effects of war. They have left behind everything they own, arriving into neighbouring lands with only the few possessions they could carry by hand.
Their needs are as urgent as they are basic: food, shelter, healthcare and fuel.
I recently returned from visiting both the Turkish and Lebanese borders, where Trócaire’s partners are responding to the needs of some of the hardest-hit Syrian communities.
Up to 350,000 Syrians have crossed into Lebanon, with a further 260,000 now living in Turkey. Coping with such a large influx of people has been difficult – the number of Syrians having crossed into Lebanon amounts to 10 per cent of Lebanon’s total population.
The conditions for Syrians living in scattered settlements along the Lebanese border are extremely difficult. While many Syrians have been taken in by Lebanese families or have taken up residence in tiny rooms or abandoned buildings, thousands more are living under plastic sheeting, sometimes without essentials such as lighting or sanitation.
Trócaire is working with Caritas partners, including the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Centre, to provide wide-ranging support to over 20,000 people in these settlements, including food and shelter.
I spent time with our partner organisations, providing training on how issues of violence, exploitation and abuse affect communities – particularly women and children – during a crisis like this. Having fled from violence, it is vital that agencies can provide safety and support to vulnerable people.
On the Turkey-Syria border, we are working with the International Blue Crescent to establish safe spaces for children in the town of Kilis, just north of Aleppo. Many of the children fleeing into Kilis are deeply affected by what they have seen. Children here often have difficulty sleeping and have a fear of loud noises.
We have established ‘Child Friendly Spaces’ in Kilis. These spaces allow children a safe and protective environment to play and socialise. Providing this kind of environment is crucial, as many of the children have been out of the school system for up to two years.
Parents often report behavourial problems with children who have been exposed to horrific scenes of violence. In conflict, violence becomes normalised, and so children need support to deal with what they have seen. This support can take the form of psychological care, or it could be that the children just need a space that allows them be children once again.
For people fleeing the brutal war in Syria, needs really are that basic.
Images courtesy of Caritas Internationalis