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SYRIA: Salesians Provide Emergency Relief, Shelter and Skills Training to Close to 800 Syrian Refugees Each Day

(MissionNewswire) Since the March 2011 outbreak of civil war in Syria, close to 9 million Syrians have fled their homes in search of safety, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). More than 6 million of those affected are children who have been put at risk of violence, a lack of essential supplies and destroyed infrastructure that has closed schools and hospitals.

Close to 6.5 million people are internally displaced within Syria. More than 2.5 million have fled to the neighboring countries of Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq and just under a 100,000 have declared asylum in Europe. Refugee camps in these bordering countries are overflowing with families in need of basic supplies, adequate shelter and safety as well as technical skills training so they can begin to earn a living in their new host countries.

Salesian missionaries were well established at three sites in Syria well before the civil war started and they continue to provide for those in need. Two of the sites are in Aleppo and Damascus, particularly high conflict areas, and the third is in Kafroun. Salesians still working within Syria assist with trauma counseling and emergency shelter as well as nutrition and medical referrals.

Salesians have been helping Syrian refugees in Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt since early 2012, where each day they assist between 400 and 800 refugees, many of whom are women and children. At these refugee sites, Salesians provide emergency relief by meeting basic needs and providing shelter, safety and medical assistance. Salesians also offer technical skills training to assist refugee families with finding stable employment in their new host countries. This is urgently needed as individuals find it challenging to locate long-term formal employment, or draw on established social and professional networks, as a result of evacuation and host country labor laws.

“Salesians are particularly focused on providing care and support services to urban refugees,” says Neill Holland, program officer at the Salesian Missions Office for International Programs. “Urban refugees, like those fleeing Syria and other areas, are particularly vulnerable to economic insecurity, subject to long-term unemployment and high costs for basic necessities like shelter and food. What’s more, urban refugees intent on joining host country commerce out of the need to support dependent family members, often despite host country labor laws, are significantly at risk of exploitation and compromising situations.”

Salesians seek to assist these most disadvantaged and vulnerable refugees, particularly those living outside of protected camps who take risks in order to support elderly parents, wives and their children. Salesian programs offer support though skills training, advocacy and counseling as well as by providing safe spaces where refugee families have a place to play and commune peacefully.

One of the biggest challenges Salesians face when providing assistance for Syrian refugees is managing the relationship between the refugees and the local community. Salesians work with community residents and refugees to provide support and empower the communities to care for their most vulnerable members.

“Although many refugee hosting situations are known to be fraught with discontent over competition for basic needs items such as housing, food, education and earnings, which increases in scarcity for both local residents and refugees during displacement, the Salesians are well positioned to counsel the host and refugee community alike,” says Holland.

“Salesians work to promote non-violent conflict resolution and mutual understanding through inter-community sports and learning exchanges,” adds Holland. “This central effort, to promote peace while improving quality of education and health, livelihood and life in general, is the reason that Salesian programming for refugees is so successful.”

Through this work, Salesians have had the opportunity to build capacity and strategic partnerships by collaborating with partners from the Egyptian government, Caritas, groups of private industry CEOs and others, all with the goal of improving quality of life, protection and livelihood opportunities for vulnerable refugees.

Due to their ongoing work and infrastructure supports, Salesians have been able to connect Syrian refugees in their programs with additional assistance provided by host governments and international organizations like UNHCR. The visibility and networking afforded by Salesians is critical to the design of a comprehensive response to the Syrian Refugee crisis by the global development community.

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PHOTO SHOWS SIMILAR PROGRAM IN EGYPT, A COUNTRY WHERE PROGRAMS WILL ALSO BE ASSISTING SYRIAN REFUGEES.

Sources:

UNHCR – Syrian Regional Refugee Response