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Syria: displaced families struggle to find shelter
September 14, 2012

Syria: displaced families struggle to find shelter
A makeshift classroom organized by Jesuit Refugee Service in Homs, Syria, where up to 800 children are receiving educational support. Some children have not attended school for more than one year. (Jesuit Refugee Service)
The latest JRS emergency service is the field kitchen which ensures 5,000 people receive one hot meal and a basic food bag for breakfast and dinner each day. The food is distributed in JRS-supported schools, mosques, and other distribution points.

(Amman) September 14, 2012 — As the heat of summer fades and the school year recommences, the fate of displaced Syrians remains undecided. During the summer months, as fighting reached unprecedented levels, authorities allowed for tens of thousands of Syrians to take shelter inside schools. Now that the school year is upon us again, the question of what to do with displaced homeless people is on everyone's minds.

Many Syrians also seek refuge in public parks. However, neither schools nor parks are sustainable solutions, particularly for such large numbers, as they lack adequate amenities for survival.

Despite the emergency support Jesuit Refugee Service currently offers, the question of the ability of the organization to provide adequate shelter in the coming months remains unanswered as the destruction of homes and basic infrastructure continues unabated.

Aleppo. Daily life in Aleppo is extremely precarious with regular food and fuel shortages, as well as electricity, telephone, and internet blackouts. Fighting takes place day and night, both via land and air. Therefore, there are very few safe places for people to take shelter and many are isolated from any support.

An estimated 60,000 people are believed to have found refuge in schools, mosques, and the Aleppo University campus.

Last month, JRS managed eleven schools in Aleppo that provided shelter for displaced persons. This month JRS has limited its services and caretaker responsibility to six schools, housing a total of 4,000 people. In addition, JRS provides internally displaced persons (IDPs) in five other schools with food baskets, non-food items and cash assistance.

JRS staff has continued to support 8,000 IDPs from Idlib and Homs by granting them food and household goods over the past three months. Most of these 8,000 had found their own accommodation in Aleppo, but due to the violence many have been forced to relocate again. Consequently, JRS has lost contact with many families and is in the process of re-connecting to follow-up on their present conditions. 

The latest JRS emergency service is the field kitchen which ensures 5,000 people receive one hot meal and a basic food bag for breakfast and dinner each day. The food is distributed in JRS-supported schools, mosques, and other distribution points. The Syrian Red Crescent is also responsible for the distribution of food, but delivery is not always assured due to limited access to distribution points and the exceptional high demand. The World Food Programme has restarted their services after suspending them due to the violence in Aleppo. 

Damascus. Shelling continues in neighborhoods close to the two JRS centers. Recent bomb blasts occurred in Jaramana, a religious and socially mixed neighborhood where many JRS- supported IDPs live. 

Owing to the unpredictability of the violence, JRS has been regularly forced to close its centers temporarily, but as long as they can operate safely, they remain open. At the moment, up to 67 children attend the educational activities offered at the JRS centre in Dwelaa.

There is also a high demand for food support in Damascus leading to increased levels of fear and stress.

Homs. Recently there was a bombing close to the neighborhood of Boustan al Diwan where the Jesuit residency is located. 

Al Moukales and Al Waer centers inside Homs provide educational and psychosocial support for 800 children, including 15 young people with disabilities.

Al Ard Jesuit center, outside of Homs, has become more isolated. Both the main road and back roads to Al Ard are increasingly dangerous and Al Ard is frequently targeted by rockets. Fifty people are currently living there, but at the end of September Al Ard will only offer shelter for short-term emergency purposes.

Jordan. While many people focus their attention on the 26,000 refugees in Za'atari, more than 50,000 refugees outside of the camp have registered with UN refugee agency (UNHCR). According to UNHCR, there are another nearly 75,000 refugees not registered with the agency.

Refugees living in local communities outside of the camps are also in need of support. JRS Jordan is conducting assessments to fill the gaps outside of the recently established Za'atari refugee camp in northern Jordan. In Amman, Syrian refugees comprise 25 percent of JRS services, including: informal education, family visits, and needs assessments conducted daily. 

How can you help? As winter approaches, JRS is preparing to provide the necessary support, especially clothes and household goods, to displaced families. The average temperature in Syria drops to ten degrees Centigrade in winter, with rainfall and harsh winds. Many families have lost all their possessions and only own clothing suited for summer months. 

Given the gravity of the situation on the ground, JRS hopes to establish a second field kitchen in Aleppo with your financial support.

To help support the JRS emergency project, please click here and select JRS Middle East Refugees on the drop-down menu.

Previous related stories:

Praying with Refugees in Jordan

Syria: JRS expands emergency support in Aleppo 

Update on JRS emergency response to Syria crisis 

Syria: JRS helping displaced families

Jordan: offering education in an emergency

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