SOUTHINGTON, Connecticut — Since its founding in 1968, Concern Worldwide has expanded to work in 23 countries. Today, it continues to establish education and psychosocial support. The Ireland-based humanitarian organization has recently focused on COVID-19 emergency response and the Syrian crisis in Turkey and Lebanon as a strategy to support Syrian refugees. The organization has also advocated for providing vaccine equity to all countries as global vaccination could take until 2024 without coordinated intervention. Concern Worldwide works on the ground in Turkey and Lebanon to distribute supplies and fundraise for Syrian crisis relief on the Global Giving platform. Efforts focus on protecting Syrian refugees and other populations with humanitarian efforts to alleviate poverty globally.
Concern Worldwide in Turkey
Firstly, Concern Worldwide has protected part of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey since 2013. U.S. Policy Manager Makayla Palazzo told The Borgen Project that in 2020, Concern Worldwide reached out to 100,000 beneficiaries. According to Palazzo, Concern Worldwide Lebanon and Turkey focused on “psychosocial support” through remote counseling. The organization established a Protection and Resilience Building for Refugees program in Southeast Turkey from September 2019 to August 2020.
The project, funded by the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations or ECHO, focused on COVID-19 response. In addition, individual protection assistance, psychosocial support and case management services were top priorities. The project’s resources and utilities served 50,604 people and performed mainly within or above expectations in October 2020. The assessments found that awareness sessions helped empower refugees to learn and request rights. In addition, COVID-19 cash assistance is seen as a necessary strategy to support Syrian refugees. The ECHO-funded “Emergency Education, Protection Support and Resilience Building for Refugees in Southeastern Turkey” project is working in a third phase from September 2020 to August 2021.
In response to COVID-19, Concern Worldwide distributed hygiene kits with surface cleaners, shampoo and soap to vulnerable people in countries like Turkey during COVID-19. Palazzo gave further detail on responsive measures, adding how Concern Worldwide provides “support to government-run schools” in Turkey. The organization gave “online training sessions to parents” on preventing the spread of COVID-19. Meanwhile, it distributed “household items like mattresses and kitchen items as well as cash for food” for beneficiaries in Turkey.
Concern Worldwide in Lebanon
Concern Worldwide has supported Lebanon since 2013 as Lebanon hosts 1.5 million Syrian refugees. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization worked to establish Syrian refugee tenant agreements. Concern Worldwide rehabilitated degrading buildings in exchange for refugee rent negotiations as a strategy to support Syrian refugees. The organization has focused on protecting the livelihoods of Syrian refugees and Lebanese people with remote psychosocial support as well. Through remote support, Concern Worldwide works in child protection and gender-based violence cases. Shelter and WASH protocols in Lebanon have expanded. Concern Worldwide currently rehabilitates two isolation facilities in Akkar, Lebanon for refugees with COVID-19 cases. Approximately 3,098 Syrian refugees and Lebanese people received COVID-19 responses. Concern Worldwide has provided COVID-19 awareness sessions and hygiene kits after June 2020. The organization has gone on to distribute cash transfers to temporarily unemployed refugee homes.
Palazzo reported that the organization reached 55,000 beneficiaries across North Lebanon in 2020 at a time where the poverty situation was growing more desperate. The “percentage of people living in extreme poverty was at 90%.” This was up 35% when “compared to 55%” in 2019. Concern Worldwide Lebanon has helped fundraise for and provide a humanitarian response after the Beirut port explosion on August 4, 2020, left 300,000 people homeless. Palazzo informed The Borgen Project that Concern Worldwide, the UNFPA, ECHO and the Irish government funded a grant project with Lebanese people where “teams of people who were architects and engineers” went “around Beirut doing assessments of the damage and [helped]reconstruct shelters that have been destroyed” starting in August 2020.
Concern Worldwide COVID-19 Partner Organization Response
In addition to the grant project, Concern Worldwide partnered with ECHO in Syria for funding to engage an emergency humanitarian response to combat challenges related to conflicts in Syria and increased food insecurity. Concern Worldwide partners with governmental donors including USAID and Irish Aid as grants from ECHO and the European Union helped support COVID-19 projects as a strategy to support Syrian refugees. The European Commission certified a European Union 2021-2027 funding partnership with Concern Worldwide in November 2020 for humanitarian aid actions during COVID-19.
Concern Worldwide posted a March 2021 article focused on Country Directors to advocate for the crisis in Syria and for a strong COVID-19 response. The article announced that more than 4 million Lebanese people and almost 1.2 million Syrian refugees remain food insecure in Lebanon alone. The Lebanese government, along with its partners, have requested almost $3 billion in an effort to provide “critical humanitarian assistance” and “invest in Lebanon’s public infrastructure, services and local economy.”
Additionally, Concern Worldwide recognized a financial need of $1.174 billion in Turkey this year. This comes at a time when “76% of Syrian refugees in Turkey are living below the poverty line.” Palazzo advised The Borgen Project that Concern Worldwide advocated for the protection of Lebanese migrant workers by posting humanizing social media videos “because, oftentimes, their needs were not met after the explosion.”
As Turkey and Lebanon hope to receive COVID-19 vaccines in 2021, Concern Worldwide advocates for global vaccine equity. The organization recognizes that vaccines should be distributed by need while vaccine production is increased through implemented emergency measures as a strategy to support Syrian refugees. Though the situation is dire for many, this year calls for survival above all. As the work of Concern Worldwide continues, greater numbers of vulnerable refugee populations survive until positive change brings severely needed safety and security.
— Evan Winslow