After almost five years of brutal violence, with no end in sight, over half of Syria’s population is in crisis.
The war in Syria, which began in 2011 as a peaceful protest, has devastated the Middle Eastern country. Government forces and armed opposition groups continue to vie for control of territory throughout the country. The continuing violence has forced millions of fearful residents to flee in search of safety.
The United Nations reports that the number of refugees uprooted from Syria has surpassed four million—staggeringly, over half of these refugees are children. In total, out of a population of 22 million, over half are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance. The numbers are nearly incomprehensible.
Responding to Conflict in Syria
Presbyterian World Service & Development is responding through the ACT Alliance and Canadian Foodgrains Bank to support people in Syria and its neighbouring countries suffering the devastating effects of war.
PWS&D continues to support relief efforts in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan—where the need is still great.
Together, our response is helping provide the following support:
- Preserving the health and food security of internally displaced people by meeting the immediate food needs of 6,000 families within Syria. Food assistance includes items such as rice, chickpeas, pasta and oil.
- Using a voucher system, 11,000 refugees in Lebanon are able to use local markets and make their own food choices—increasing access to food and providing a sense of dignity and normality to families.
- Providing essential non-food items—including access to water, hygiene supplies, shelter and clothing—as well as medical, educational and psychosocial support, particularly to children and youth, in refugee camps.
- Assisting refugees and migrants who fled to Europe and required support.
PWS&D is also providing support to Presbyterian congregations interested in sponsoring refugees under The Presbyterian Church in Canada’s sponsorship agreement with the Government of Canada.
Read how PWS&D’s support is assisting families:
“In Syria we were happy,” shares Fatima, smiling as she remembers her once peaceful homeland. “Oh yes, we were, and comfortable, too.”
Brutal violence forced Fatima to flee Syria in 2013. She now lives with relatives in a rented room in Lebanon. Because of the war, her three brothers are missing.
Though Fatima is now safe, she feels sad and empty away from home. She misses her life in Syria—especially her job. All Fatima wants to do is go back to being a teacher.
She covers her face with her hands. “Now I can’t do anything.”
Mousa, a neighbour, is facing similar challenges.
Back home, Mousa bought and sold livestock. “I had a good life,” he says. “In Syria, I could do anything.”
Now in Lebanon, the father of four is not allowed to have a job because of restrictions placed on Syrian refugees by the Lebanese government.
To get by, Mousa picks fruit for local farmers. The farmers aren’t allowed to employ him, but know that Syrians will work for cheap. Mousa earns $8 a day—significantly less than what the Lebanese can make.
Mousa doesn’t like being taken advantage of. But in his position, he has no other choice.
Meeting Food Needs
Unable to find secure employment, Fatima and Mousa worried about meeting their basic needs. Fortunately, a PWS&D-supported project with Canadian Foodgrains Bank is helping them get enough food. The project is providing food vouchers for refugees so they can purchase groceries while saving money for rent and other expenses.
“We are very dependent on the vouchers,” shares Mousa.
“Yes, yes, yes,” Fatima echoes quietly.
While Fatima and Mousa miss the comforts of home—their families, jobs, routines—with this assistance, they are surviving. In this time of great uncertainty, knowing they can save money for rent and enjoy a warm dinner is a source of comfort and strength.
“Thank you for helping us,” says Fatima to visitors from Canada. “The vouchers help me survive.”
*Adapted from a story by John Longhurst on the Canadian Foodgrains Bank website.
When Om Mohammed goes to the grocery store with her children and chooses the food she wants to purchase, in a small way she is taking back some control over her life.
Om and her three young children fled to Lebanon to escape suffering borne out of violence in Syria.
Ongoing conflict has left many refugees in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. Hunger, fear and unthinkable anguish are a reality for the women, men and children who have been uprooted from their homes and are desperate to rebuild their lives in a new country.
Om has no job and her husband is deceased. Each month, she struggles to pay her rent on top of school and transportation fees for her children. Om worried constantly about being able to provide enough food for her children.
Responding with Food Vouchers
Presbyterian World Service & Development—with our partners at the Canadian Foodgrains Bank—is responding with food vouchers to refugees facing hunger and food insecurity in Lebanon. These vouchers allow families to purchase foods like rice, sugar, milk, yogurt, cheese and eggs. For Om, these vouchers are critical, ensuring the health of her children.
Without the food vouchers, Om would have to make tremendously difficult choices—whether to buy food or pay for shelter for her family—choices no one should be forced to make.
Om is happy that with this support she can give her children healthy food to eat. She also enjoys a sense of freedom and empowerment when choosing which items she wants to purchase at the stores.
Over 12 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance as a result of violent conflict in Syria. PWS&D is working with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank to respond by providing much needed food assistance to those affected.
Support this ongoing response through PWS&D’s Be a Peacemaker campaign.
“Our home used to be paradise.”
Nisreen, standing in the one-room apartment she shares with 10 other family members in Lebanon, laments her once peaceful, happy life in Syria.
She and her husband Ahmad used to barbeque large dinners for family and friends. Their children would laugh and play in the garden courtyard. Getting enough to eat each night was never a concern.
When the fighting in their town escalated, the family had no other choice but to flee to Lebanon.
That life and cherished home have been torn apart by war.
It was not easy adjusting to a new life in Lebanon. Instead of a garden courtyard, the children play inside on a stack of thin mattresses. Rather than a barbeque to cook meals, there is a small stove with one working burner.
With Ahmad’s entire earnings going towards rent, the couple often worried about buying food and clothes for their growing children.
A Sense of Home
Presbyterian World Service & Development is working in collaboration with its partners atCanadian Foodgrains Bank to provide food vouchers to those affected by conflict in Syria. The vouchers enable families to purchase the groceries they need while saving money for other living expenses.
While it is not the paradise they remember, in the shelter of their apartment—over meals of rice and lentils purchased with the vouchers—Ahmad, Nisreen and their children have found safety and a place to call home.
Respond to the Refugee Crisis
You can make a difference by helping restore peace and a sense of home for families like Nisreen and Ahmad’s. Donations made until February 29, 2016 are eligible to be matched by the Government of Canada. Give today to provide refugees with much needed food assistance. Please mark your donations “Syria relief.”
*With thanks for content from Mennonite Central Committee Canada. Read the original story here: http://mcccanada.ca/stories/piece-piece
In September 2013, Zakaria, his wife Fatima and their four children arrived in Lebanon. They had escaped violent conflict in Syria, but settling in the neighbouring country was a challenge.
An Uncertain Beginning
Zakaria and Fatima had trouble securing food and shelter. They had also arrived in an area where anti-Syrian sentiment amongst the Lebanese had begun to surface, provoking hostility between the two groups.
As tensions mounted, the family was forced to abandon their home and their belongings and seek shelter elsewhere.
When Zakaria and Fatima did find an apartment, they struggled to pay rent. Despite his best efforts, Zakaria was unable to find employment. The couple exhausted their savings buying food and clothing for their growing children.
Hope for the Future
Presbyterian World Service & Development is working with partners at the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB) to provide food vouchers to those affected by the conflict in Syria. The vouchers enable families to buy nutritious food while saving enough money to cover living expenses.
Zakaria signed up to start receiving the vouchers right away. Before long, his children’s sighs of hunger had begun to dwindle.
An Act of Compassion
Even though Zakaria and Fatima faced many hardships since resettling in Lebanon, they were still determined to do their part to support other Syrian refugees living in fear and uncertainty.
Zakaria eventually found work and started earning enough income to cover the cost of rent and other living expenses.
Encouraged, he made another visit to the food distribution office. This time, Zakaria announced that since he had found employment, his family—even though they still qualified for the vouchers—should no longer receive food vouchers and that they should go to other families in greater need.
The food distribution officers were touched by Zakaria’s generosity and concern for the many other vulnerable men, women and children affected by the crisis in Syria.
Even in the face of poverty, conflict and injustice, compassion finds a way.
Respond With Us!
The crisis in Syria, which began in 2011 as a peaceful protest, has no end in sight. Syrian refugees are now the second largest refugee population in the world.
While the root of the conflict in Syria is complex, one fact is simple: thousands of displaced people are in need of humanitarian aid and support. Your generous gifts are helping people like Zakaria, Fatima and their children find the hope and courage to rebuild their lives with dignity.
Support this ongoing response through PWS&D’s Be a Peacemaker campaign.
By Amanda Thorsteinsson, Canadian Foodgrains Bank
In a sea of women at a meeting of Syrian refugee parents whose children attend a preschool in Lebanon, Latif Anaoun stands out. The 34 year-old father wishes it was his wife at the meeting. But she can’t be there – she died during childbirth, along with their infant. They are yet more victims of the conflict in Syria.
As his little son, Leith, 6, cuddles on his lap, Anaoun remembers his family’s comfortable middle class life in Syria. “Here, we are suffering to eat,” he says. “I am not able to provide for my child,” he says.
Back in Syria, Anaoun owned a cosmetics shop. He worked there as long as he could after the war started, but soon the fighting was coming closer and closer. People were getting killed. He didn’t feel safe anymore. After he closed the shop, Anaoun drove a taxi in order to earn money. But soon that became dangerous, too. Anaoun was especially worried about his wife, pregnant with their second child.
There was only one thing he felt they could do—leave Syria.
After selling a few things to get money, but not arouse suspicion, the family left in the middle of the night. They traveled to the Lebanese border, finding a place to live in Beirut.
He was glad to be out of Syria, but things weren’t going well with his wife’s pregnancy.
Although it’s possible for Syrians to receive medical care in Lebanon, the hospitals are overworked and overwhelmed due to the influx of so many refugees. When her health began to deteriorate, he made the difficult decision to take her back to Syria, where he knew they would be able to see a doctor. But by then it was too late.
The Syrian doctors did what they could, but Anaoun lost his wife, only 31 years old, and the baby during childbirth. After she was laid to rest, he brought Leith back to Beirut.
“It feels like a dream,” he says of the past few months. “Like a nightmare.”
Food Vouchers Making a Difference
One thing that makes their lives a little easier is the food vouchers Anaoun receives from Canadian Foodgrains Bank [through a program supported by PWS&D and other CFGB members]*.
“We could be on the street if it weren’t for this,” he says of the vouchers.
Anaoun works as a courier but is drastically underpaid like most other Syrians in Lebanon. The vouchers allow Anaoun to save money on food so he can pay his portion of the rent in the tiny apartment he and Leith share with 18 other people.
He hopes that one day his son can enjoy peace—like he did, before the war. “When the bombing stops, we will go back.”
“We had a normal life in Syria,” says Fatima. “We just want to go home.”
Thirteen-year-old Fatima, her brother Muhammed, 11, and their mother Manha live in a converted chicken coop in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley – a far cry from their life back home in the suburbs of Aleppo.
This is just one of the many changes the family has experienced since fleeing the conflict in Syria a year ago. A lack of contact with family members is another.
“We have two older daughters, one in Syria, the other living like us, as a refugee, in Turkey,” Manha says. “I’d love to be able to tell you more, but we haven’t been able to contact them in over two years.”
As for Fatima and Muhammed, a change they feel most keenly is their inability to go to school. With over a million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, many of them school age kids, there’s simply no room in Lebanese schools. Many children have been out of school for as long as three years.
“In Syria, we had friends,” Fatima says. “We were happy. We had a garden we used to play in when we weren’t doing our homework.” She never thought she would begin her teenage years in a chicken coop.
Manha and her husband pay $140 USD a month to live in a cobbled-together room within the chicken coop. That price includes the electricity needed for one bright light bulb. There is no heating or plumbing. While the rent might not sound like much, its still a struggle for the family, whose savings are almost gone since arriving in Lebanon.
Five months ago, they started receiving assistance from a Canadian Foodgrains Bank project that operates out of a nearby church, providing food vouchers to Syrian refugees so they can purchase food at local grocery stores. The vouchers allow the family to use the money they would otherwise spend on food to pay the rent for their converted chicken coop home.
“Without this help, God knows what would happen to us,” says Manha.
Presbyterian World Service & Development is working with Canadian Foodgrains Bank to provide urgently needed assistance to those affected by the conflict.
CFGB has committed nearly $12 million to help those caught in the Syrian crisis. Over 78,000 people a month are being reached through Mennonite Central Committee Canada, Canadian Baptist Ministries, Emergency Relief and Development Overseas, Presbyterian World Service & Development, World Renew, Primates World Relief & Development Fund, and the United Church of Canada.
Original story by Amanda Thorsteinsson.
Amanda is the Communications Officer at Canadian Foodgrains Bank. She traveled to Syria in December of 2013.
Respond with Us!
Everyone deserves to be safe. Everyone deserves to be protected. PWS&D is inviting you to Be a Peacemaker—to pray for those enduring displacement and trauma because of war, and to offer financial support that will lead to critical, life-saving assistance.
You can make a donation through your church, by mailing a cheque to the PWS&D office, calling us at 1-800-619-7301 x291, or donating online. Please mark your donation “Syria crisis.”
Syria Conflict Response Resources
Responding Together to Conflict in Syria - Bulletin Insert