Syrian Refugees and the Importance of Humanitarian Aid

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SEATTLE, Washington — People have been streaming out of Syria into countries all over the surrounding regions and the world. The eight-year conflict has created the worst refugee crisis, and while many humanitarian organizations are doing their best to help Syrian refugees, they require more funding and support. This is why humanitarian aid is so important.

The Background

Hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria have braved the treacherous seas to seek shelter in nearby countries. Many refugees attempt the journey by overloading small boats and hoping for the best. The alternative of staying in war-torn Syria and enduring airstrikes and merciless conflict is enough to motivate them to take any semi-seaworthy vessel.
These refugees migrate to countries all over the world, but the majority have ended up in neighboring countries in the region, like Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. The largest population of refugees is in Turkey with 3.3 million while only around 8 percent of Syrian refugees are in the Middle Eastern refugee camps.

The UN and UNHCR

The United Nations and nongovernmental organization are implementing the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP). 3RP is helping the countries deal with the influx of refugees. With a budget of $5.5 billion, 3RP is designed to help host governments provide the necessary services to refugees and offset the adverse effects of the influx. Around 270 humanitarian and development organizations affiliated with 3RP have given $12 billion in support since 2015.
The U.N. helps refugees from Syria by providing them with cash assistance, “stoves and fuel for heating, insulation for tents, thermal blankets and winter clothing.” They also provide Syrian children with educational opportunities. Many Syrian refugees have had to resort to sending their children to work to supplement the small amount of money they receive from the UNHCR. While the money the UNHCR gives the refugees supplants their income, it is often not enough to cover all of their expenses.

Helping Children

One of the more unique educational initiatives by the UNHCR and the European Union is the ‘Fun Bus’ in Beirut. The ‘Fun Bus’ travels around Beirut offering psycho-social support activities and educational classes. In Lebanon, approximately 70 percent of Syrian refugees live below the poverty line. The ‘Fun Bus’ has reached hundreds of children who work in Beirut, many of whom live or work on the street. The children look forward to their time on the bus, a welcome break from life and work on the streets.
The ‘Fun Bus’ is part of a broader program by the UNHCR to get refugee children away from working on the streets. Workers from the program reach out to the families of these children and offer vocational training. The program has been successful in helping 150 children off the streets in the last two years.
UNICEF supports 150 Makani Centers in Syrian refugees camps inside Jordan. Approximately 93 percent of the refugees from Syria in Jordan live below the poverty line. These Makani Centers are a kind of school for refugee children, a place for them to play, learn and get support for special needs. The children love the Makani Centers because they can socialize and feel hopeful for a safe, healthy life. Many of the children missed years of schooling while they were in Syria due to the conflict.

Countering Violent Extremism

Syrian refugees are at risk of recruitment into violent extremist organizations, especially if thrust into an untenable situation. Humanitarian support for Syrian refugees can help ensure global security. Organizations are working to increase the International Affairs Budget so that the U.S. can help provide support for a more secure future.
U.S. State Department efforts to counter violent extremism (CVE) are comprised of various methods of support for marginalized people. Some of these methods are supporting communication between governments and citizens, providing access to and success in education and having programs to encourage youth leadership and non-violent problem-solving skills.
Membership in violent extremist groups can be discouraged through educational and psychological services. With the help of humanitarian support, Syrian refugees can create some sense of identity and dignity, which should make them more difficult targets for violent extremist recruitment.

The Return to Syria

Among Middle Eastern host countries, there is a growing fear that the large population of Syrian refugees will remain permanently. What follows is increasing instances of deportation of these refugees, forcing them to return to Syria. The United Nations projects that 250,000 Syrian refugees will be returned to Syria from their host countries this year.
There are many concerns regarding the repatriation of Syrian refugees. While Syria is more stable than before, it still has conflict areas and some refugees fear the Syrian government itself. In many areas of Syria, the infrastructure and houses are destroyed and the cities are riddled with mines.
The crisis that Syrian refugees face is complicated and has many facets. However, with the help of the international humanitarian community, these refugees can survive and thrive as valuable, productive members of society. The more refugees that receive necessary services, the more secure and prosperous the globe will be in the future.

Peter S. Mayer
Photo: Unsplash

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