UMCOR Aiding Uprooted Syrians
AS THE COMPLEX CONFLICT IN SYRIA ENTERS ITS SIXTH YEAR, THE UNITED METHODIST COMMITTEE ON RELIEF (UMCOR) IS CONTINUING ITS AID FOR SYRIANS FORCED TO FLEE THEIR STRIFE-TORN HOMES.
UMCOR, through its partners, is assisting those displaced within Syria and those who have fled to neighboring countries and beyond.
In a district north of Damascus, the Syrian capital, UMCOR is working with International Blue Crescent to supply some 1,000 displaced families with urgently needed food packages.
“Many of these internally displaced persons have been made homeless multiple times, but due to repeated shifts in the fighting, they often are much more difficult to reach and support,” said Laurie Felder, executive secretary for UMCOR International Disaster Response.
The Syrian conflict marked its fifth anniversary in March. In that time, more than a quarter million people have been killed, 4.5 million have fled the country and 7.6 million have been displaced within Syria.
UMCOR has provided more than $3.5 million in emergency assistance to confront the crises in Syria and Iraq since 2011. Aid has come in the form of emergency food supplies, health care, shelter, psychosocial support, education support and even mine removal. It includes nearly $900,000 in relief-supply kits, including hygiene, school, layette and birthing kits.
GRANTS INCREASE, DISPLACEMENTS CONTINUE
Each year that the fighting has continued, UMCOR has increased the number of grants it has made to its partners in the field, from a single grant in 2011 for emergency relief supplies for Syrian refugees at border camps in Turkey to 22 grants in 2015.
A ceasefire brokered earlier this year that went into effect on Feb. 27 continues to hold, allowing space for increased humanitarian assistance. But, as the United Nations noted, “Intermittent fighting, shifting conflict lines and persisting deprivation have continued to displace people across the country.”
UMCOR is partnering with the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) to help uprooted Syrians on the outskirts of Damascus find housing and pay the rent. This partnership offers protection to a vulnerable population, while also respecting and acknowledging their human dignity.
ASSISTANCE FARTHER FROM HOME
Many of the homeless, especially from western Syria, cross the border into Lebanon — a country now receiving an influx from both Syria and Iraq that is equivalent to one-fourth its own population. UMCOR, through MECC, is providing refugees near Beirut, on the slopes of Mount Lebanon, with food and hygiene kits they might not otherwise receive.
As desperate Syrians find their way along tortuous routes through neighboring Turkey to Greece and beyond, UMCOR is finding new ways to help them.
In Serbia, UMCOR is working with NEXUS to assist Syrian refugees there. The nongovernmental agency focuses on humanitarian assistance, psychosocial support and education for vulnerable communities.
In Vranje, Serbia, UMCOR through NEXUS is providing refugees with “day packages” as they move along one of Europe’s main transit corridors. The packages contain food to provide 24 hours’ worth of calories, plus drinking water and basic hygiene items.
“As well as their food and other immediate necessities,” said Felder, “we are working to ensure the safety and dignity of the refugees.”
David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media critic, who contributes frequently to umcor. org, where this story was originally published. Linda Unger, senior writer for the General Board of Global Ministries, contributed parts of this article