20 June, World Refugee Day
Launched by the State of Qatar in 2016, QUEST is an initiative that aims to provide multi-sectoral support to conflict affected Syrians inside and outside Syria. At its early stages, Quest sought to ensure that children and young people, who have suffered from the consequences of the Syrian crisis, are able to get the necessary education and skills that enable them to move to formal education and find good jobs in the future to be active members of their community. The initiative was launched in line with the “No Lost Generation” initiative, the Syria Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), and the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP). The five-year initiative sought to provide education and training to Syrian refugees within Syria and in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. Refugee projects were funded by QFFD and strategic partners with the amount of $60.3 Million.
In 2018, Qatar Fund for Development (QFFD) expanded the initiative to include health and economic development interventions. The health component aims to provide vital support to a wide range of populations using various strategies to bring about quick improvements in the health status to targeted beneficiaries. The interventions include reproductive health, nutrition, primary, secondary, and tertiary health support targeting over six million persons. In addition to this, QFFD is supporting economic development projects that aim to create sustainable jobs for youths and women by creatively tackling the root barriers to wage and self-employment to generate and drive sustainable income and livelihoods. In doing so, the interventions provide technical skills training, employment advice, and they facilitate access to finance and higher education.
Supporting Education in Conflict Areas
HE Khalifa bin Jassim Al-Kuwari, Director General of QFFD, said, “Investing in education is crucial to addressing extreme poverty and building safe and sustainable societies. It is important that children who live in areas suffering from armed conflict and insecurity are protected, and that they shouldn’t lose the opportunity to go to school and dream of a better future.”
With the support from QFFD and within the framework of the ‘Quest’ initiative, Qatar Charity (QC) launched the project of “Printing and Distributing School Textbooks” in northern Syria.
With printing and distributing nearly 4 million textbooks to children, Qatar Charity has benefited 472,925 male and female students during the academic year 2019-2020.
The project was implemented within the framework of the “Improving the Level of Education for More Than One Million Children” project launched by Qatar Charity in 2017, aiming at improving the education infrastructure in northern Syria, and creating an appropriate environment to promote the return of children to schools.
With the completion of the second phase of the project, Qatar Charity has printed more than nine million textbooks covering all basic subjects for all levels, benefiting over one million male and female students by the end of the academic year 2019-2020.
The project was implemented in coordination with supporting organizations, including the OCHA office and the United Nations Education Cluster for Syria.
Education support under the QUEST umbrella also includes capacity building for school principals and teachers of both genders and the capacity building was based on INEE standards (Global Network of Education in Emergencies Agencies).
Khalid, a 16-year-old boy, currently relocated in Atoma refugee camp, sharing his experience with Printing and Distributing School Textbooks projects, says “Thanks Allah, we have textbooks for all the students. After we received the books, we didn’t need to copy from other books, or borrowing anymore. The books increased our passion to explore and learn, we had no hope before receiving the books that we would ever get a high grade in school, most of the students lost hope and were not coming to school anymore.”
One of the main challenges Syrian refugees face is securing their medications, especially those for chronic diseases. Patients with hypertension and diabetes struggle to maintain regular supply of their medical requirements. In Zaatari camp, which hosts almost 80,000 Syrian refugees, many service providers withdrew or minimized their services in 2020 as a consequence of COVID-19 and related funding gaps. As a result, most patients with chronic diseases suddenly lost their source of medications.
The Qatari clinic in Zaatari took rapid action through coordination with health providers inside the camp to support patients referred to from other clinics to provide them with the monthly supply of their Diabetes and hypertension medications.
Qatari Red Crescent Clinic started implementation in coordination with the Chronic Diseases Department in the camp. More than 360 patients benefitted from this initiative and got their full treatment for 3 months through the Qatari clinics.
A Syrian refugee residing with his family in Zaatari refugee camp, suffered a chronic disease but was unable to access free medication. This forced him to adopt adverse coping mechanisms by selling portions of the aid his family would receive to buy his medication. As soon as A. A. heard about the free distribution of medicines in Qatari Clinics run by QRCS, he scheduled an appointment with the relevant clinic to have a full check-up and receive the required medication for free. A. A. felt a great relief as “it was for the first time that I received my medications for 3 whole months” and he was thankful for the three months’ supply as it is not easy for him to come each month to the clinic to get the medications. He was also thankful for the good reception and speedy performance where he did not have to wait for a long time to get a check-up and then the much needed medication. A.A. is hopeful that this supply of free medication will continue from the Qatari clinics so he would not have to revert back to selling some essential aid items his family much needs.
QUEST Economic Empowerment:
QUEST economic development projects are designed to build the resilience of Syrian refugees, particularly the younger generations through supporting higher education and vocational training programmes to equip Syrian Refugees with the required skills and knowledge required to succeed in the wider labor market.
QFFD had funded the development of a study by Rand Corporation on the Syrian refugees in neighboring countries. The study which provided policy recommendations on how neighboring countries that are a temporary refuge to more than (5) million displaced Syrians can enact policies that help both refugees and their host communities in finding better employment while ensuring overall economic stability. Through the data collected, the study provides in-depth analyses of existing skill sets of the Syrian refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan that address the needs of the neighboring countries labor markets. The study elaborates on the steps needed to match the supply and demand; the steps to improve the overall economic climate, and the strategies for preserving and improving social cohesion of refugees and host communities.
As part of economic development, QFFD contributes through its strategic partnership between Spark and Qatar Charity to promote stability for Syrian refugees, by investing in young Syrian refugees and facilitating access to quality education. The programs are focused on empowerment, skills rehabilitation and job creation in entrepreneurial areas that support independence and stability.
Refugees are not just leaving their home behind, they are leaving their dreams, part of themselves, seeking not just a safe home but a place that will hold their hopes and future, and this is the real aim that QFFD is working on, not only giving refugees their needs of today but thinking ahead and plan sustainably to build up the future for the refugees.