Since the beginning of 2011, violence in Syria has caused mass displacement within the country and across its borders into Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey. By July 2012, street fights and shelling had reached Aleppo and Damascus, previously safe havens for many who had fled from other areas.
To date over 123,480 people have been registered by UNHCR in Syria’s neighbouring countries, with more than half of these being children. Actual numbers are thought to be higher. This significant influx of refugees called for an urgent scale-up of response in the region.
Jordan has been one of the recipients of the highest number of Syrians. The majority are staying in host communities in Amman, Irbid, Ramtha and Mafraq and many are staying with already vulnerable families, in poorer areas of the south and throughout Jordan. This is putting pressure on household resources.
The Jordan National Red Crescent Society has been providing essential relief through food and non-food items to Syrians registered in Amman and the northern and southern areas. Staff and volunteers carry out house visits and hold regular discussions with people arriving at distributions, as well as with those newly registering, to understand their situation and needs. In partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the organization carried out three rapid assessments in Jordan in June and July, covering Amman, Ramtha, Irbid and Mafraq. These have indicated the need to provide families with cash for paying rent and purchasing essentials items, in addition to hygiene promotion sessions, to improve health conditions in overcrowded communal areas. With the colder months on the way, there will also be a need for winter blankets.
By the end of July 2012, 32,796 Syrians had registered in Lebanon with UNHCR, with over 80 per cent of these coming from Homs. The majority of these people are residing in the northern areas of the country, and in the Beka’a valley. In July, some 20,000 Syrians crossed into Lebanon over a period of 48 hours alone, although not all of these people were in need of assistance and many planned to return to Syria shortly after. A large number of Syrians however, are unwilling to return to their country until stability and security are restored in their home villages.
Lebanese Red Cross teams have been saving the lives of hundreds of people in desperate need through first aid treatment, evacuation, hospital transfer services, transportation and support through blood units. Emergency teams work daily to transport urgent cases from border areas to hospitals in Akkar and Tripoli.
Schools have been opened up to accommodate Syrian families, but pressure on local infrastructure is growing and water and sanitation interventions are needed. At least 22 collective shelters have been built in the north and in Beka’a, and 10 small mosques have been converted it to accommodate families. Syrian children are receiving remedial classes from humanitarian organisations to allow their studies to continue.
On July 23rd, the Iraqi Prime Minister ordered borders to be opened for Syrians fleeing the violence to be welcomed through border points of Al Waleed, Al Qa’im and Rabyeh. The Iraqi Red Crescent Society was quick to respond, establishing a camp and providing food and water to people crossing into Iraq. As the situation has developed, the organization is focusing on health interventions in areas where Syrians are living.
Until the end of July, the total number of Syrians residing in Iraq was over 12,000. There are over 87,000 registered Iraqi refugees in Syria, and therefore plans are in place for a response to the expected increased influx as the situation in Syria continues.
With mounting violence across Syria, forcing tens of thousands to flee across borders, The IFRC has launched an emergency appeal to increase the response required to assist this ever-growing vulnerable population in the region. This appeal seeks 3.7million Swiss francs and focuses entirely on the needs in the neighbouring countries. The Jordanian Red Crescent, the Lebanese Red Cross and the Iraqi Red Crescent societies will implement essential activities with support from IFRC, to assist 55,000 people over the next six months.
Emily Gilbert, disaster response delegate at IFRC Middle East and North Africa, said the National Societies in the region were playing a vital complementary role to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent during the crisis. “Supporting these National Societies through this Regional Population Movement Emergency Appeal will secure wider reach and life-saving assistance to the affected population,” she said.