June 20, 2007, Baltimore, MD - Catholic Relief Services (CRS) will provide assistance to Iraqi refugees living in Syria and Lebanon, thanks to nearly $2 million dollars from the US Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, and more than half a million dollars in private funds.
The rapid escalation of sectarian violence in Iraq has forced an estimated two million Iraqis to seek safety in neighboring states.
The majority of families, upwards of 1.7 million, fled to Syria and Jordan, with a few hundred thousand also seeking refuge in Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey. More than two million more people are displaced within Iraq, and the UN estimates every month another 50,000 Iraqis flee their homes.
"Although it's only recently that the international community has acknowledged and begun to respond to this humanitarian catastrophe, when you look at the numbers affected - more than four million people uprooted - the response is still not sufficient," said Jack Connolly, CRS Senior Representative for the Middle East. "More, much more, needs to be done in terms of assisting and protecting this population."
CRS and the Caritas/Lebanon Migrant Center (CLMC) will begin providing immediate humanitarian, educational, medical and psychosocial support to more than 11,000 Iraqi refugees in Beirut, with outreach to other areas of the country.
In Syria, CRS assistance, coordinated with local partners Caritas/Syria and St. Vincent de Paul Society, will reach more than 17,500 Iraqi refugees staying near Damascus and the northern cities of Hasakeh and Aleppo.
In addition to providing basic family needs, CRS and its local partners will use an integrative, holistic approach to address potential community tensions that might arise in host areas towards refugees.