3 million refugees and no end in sight
Life in Syria is so bad that around three million people have had to leave. According to the latest UN reports, the number of people leaving the country to seek refuge is likely to reach three million today (Friday 29 August).
Most of these people are living in neighbouring countries, including Lebanon and Jordan where Tearfund and other agencies are helping them.
The conflict in Syria began more than three years ago in March 2011. Since then nearly 200,000 people have died in the fighting, according to some estimates. More than 6 million people are homeless.
Rafi, aged seven, saw his little brother die in Syria. His mother told Tearfund: “He hasn’t been happy with himself since. He has nightmares and tells me that he is scared during the day.”
Rafi and his family now live in Lebanon, one of the countries where Tearfund is helping refugees. While in Syria they lived under shelling, in Lebanon it is peaceful.
Yet the whole family lives with a legacy of fear. They are all, even the parents, frightened by loud noises like fireworks.
“The Syrian people are so resilient and long to be independent, but the people I met are having to rely on the kindness of strangers in a strange land,” says Oenone Chadburn, Tearfund’s Head of Humanitarian Support, who recently returned from Jordan (summer 2014).
“I heard story after story of people who had suffered so much loss, but they continued to look forwards to the future and a time of peace and hope.”
Aid agencies including Tearfund are working to meet the needs of people who have been made homeless, both within Syria and in neighbouring countries.
Many are traumatised and need specialist help. Most have no opportunity to earn money, because their work permissions are restricted, so they struggle to feed their families. School places in host countries are limited because of the number of people arriving from Syria.
Tearfund’s local partners in Jordan and Lebanon are providing primary education to hundreds of Syrian children aged 4-11. As well as helping them to catch up on their schooling, children are given a routine for their day.
Now that violence and persecution has also forced more than a million people in neighbouring northern Iraq to flee their homes, Tearfund is beginning new aid projects. In the Kurdish region of Iraq, Tearfund will serve people who have had to flee from executions, sex slave markets and forced conversion.
“Many of us have been praying for years for these conflicts to end, and we might start to lose hope,” says Oenone.
“But the Syrians I’ve met don’t have that luxury. For the sake of their children’s futures they need us to keep praying and supporting them as much as we can.”
For background information on the crisis and opportunities to give to Tearfund’s work in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Iraq, go to http://www.tearfund.org/en/latest/syria/.