(Washington, D.C.) January 29, 2013 — Jesuit Refugee Service in Syria continues to help thousands of families displaced by the fighting; their work continues despite the added stress of the fact that the JRS staff and their network of volunteers are nearly all victims of displacement themselves. Throughout the country, conditions are deteriorating, and a brutal winter adds to the misery.
In Syria today, more than four million people are in urgent need of assistance. More than 660,000 people have fled violence to seek shelter in nearby countries, where many find themselves living in harsh conditions in refugee camps.
Throughout Syria, more than 50 percent of hospitals have been destroyed or damaged, heating oil is unable to be found and power outages last most of the day. The harsh winter — temperatures below freezing, snow and freezing rain — is compounding already deplorable conditions.
In the suburbs of Damascus, whole neighborhoods have been emptied and destroyed; there is shelling and bombing continuously. The industrial suburbs have been devastated. Schools are over crowded and without heat, and children are routinely dismissed several hours early each day.
In Damascus, there are traffic jams caused by blocked streets and checkpoints. "The streets are overcrowded in the morning," a JRS staff member tells us, "but then empty after 4 or 5 p.m."
"People are looking for shelter in Damascus, but there is none available," said JRS staff. "There are 20 families living in one apartment; another has 15 people living in one room."
In December, JRS distributed clothes and shoes to 1,000 children in Damascus, and opened a kitchen in a school sheltering 400 people. (Schools are used as shelters throughout the country.)
In one school in the city, teachers noticed children who did not eat in the morning and had no lunches. The school principal contacted JRS for assistance, and JRS began providing light meals.
In Aleppo, JRS operates field kitchens providing 15,000 meals each day to the distressed population. Additionally, JRS manages four shelters for the displaced and provides educational and recreational activities to children in an attempt to relieve them of the trauma of war.
"Daily life is very difficult, all people are very stressed and nervous," said a JRS staff member in Aleppo. “There are power outages that last for days, there is no heating, there is no phone coverage for unpredictable periods."
In Homs, JRS accompanies and serves 1650 families in the city itself, and another 500 or so families in the area.
Abandoned buildings have become makeshift shelters in Homs, but snipers prey on people from others.
In the last two months of 2012, JRS Syria spent more than $600,000 for emergency relief alone, in addition to the education and psychosocial activities for children and families. The needs are huge and the development of the JRS teams and structures allows JRS to reach more people, but we need your help.
To help support this JRS emergency project, please click here and donate today.
How can you help?
Below is a list of items that people in Syria urgently need in order to survive the winter. With your financial help, we can alleviate the suffering of Syrians.
• $65: a food-basket for a five-person family for one month.
• $105: a basic personal kit: one mattress, two sheets, one pillow, two winter-blankets and two towels.
• $157: winter clothing for one family (pullover, jacket, trousers, shoes.)
• $210: one month's rent of an apartment for a displaced family.
• $5232: cost of providing cooked meals for 10,000 people for one day.
By Christian Fuchs
Jesuit Refugee Service/USA