Syria crisis - your questions answered
2 December 2016
As Syria’s civil war stretches into a sixth year, it has become the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. According to the UN the conflict has killed over 300,000 people and caused large-scale displacement, estimating that 6.1 million Syrians have been made homeless inside the country, and that more than half the country’s pre-war population, 13.5 million people, are in need of urgent humanitarian aid – food, water, shelter and protection.
As of December 2016, almost 5 million Syrians had registered as refugees in neighbouring countries.
Thanks to the compassion and generosity of Catholics across England and Wales, our partners are providing vital emergency aid – food, shelter and medical care – to vulnerable families both inside Syria and in neighbouring countries.
What is CAFOD’s response to the setbacks to the cessation of hostilities in Syria?
CAFOD welcomed the news of cessation of hostilities in Syria in late February 2016. Nothing is more urgent than a halt in the fighting. It was hoped that a cessation of hostilities would bring an end to the sieges and make it easier to get aid to the millions people in the hardest to reach parts of the country. However, setbacks began in April and fighting in east Aleppo escalated further in August 2016.
Bishop Antoine Audo, the Bishop of Aleppo and President of Caritas Syria, said: “The cessation of hostilities gave people in Aleppo hope. They were able to breathe again, to walk in the park and to live again. However, in light of recent attacks, hope is fading fast.”
A quarter of a million people are besieged in the east of Syria’s city Aleppo, as the battle intensifies between government and rebel forces.
Alan Thomlinson, CAFOD’s Syria Crisis Programme Manager, said: “The international community cannot remain paralysed by the horrors of the Syria conflict, we must take urgent steps to restore a ceasefire, end attacks on civilians and resume peace talks. If we act now we can keep hope alive for the Syrian people. Humanitarian access to vulnerable people is absolutely vital, there must be safe, unrestricted passage of aid to all parts of Syria.”
How is CAFOD responding in the countries affected by the conflict in Syria?
Syria – We are supporting Church partners in Syria, who are providing food parcels, medical aid and relief supplies and helping people to find safe places to stay, in areas held by both government and opposition forces. We are also helping people in northern Syria make a living. The extensive community networks of the Church, even as a minority faith, mean that it is well placed to provide aid in some of the worst hit and most inaccessible areas of the country.
Unfortunately, we are unable to name our partners in Syria or state exactly where they are working. This is because many of the aid workers, priests and volunteers we support are operating at great risk to their own safety; publicising their work could endanger both them and the life-saving programmes they are delivering.
Lebanon – We are working with our partner, Caritas Lebanon, who are providing food, household items like kitchen kits, accommodation support and multipurpose cash grants, which allow people to prioritise their own needs. Caritas Lebanon also supports with medical and legal assistance and with psycho-social counselling. Over the winter, we also provided items such as blankets and mattresses for vulnerable Syrian families facing the harsh winter in informal settlements in the Bekaa Valley.
Jordan – In 2015, our partner Caritas Jordan helped over 220,000 migrants and refugees with food, shelter, water and sanitation, as well as support for education and creating safe areas for vulnerable refugees.
Turkey – We have worked with our local partners to distribute food vouchers to vulnerable families and have supported counselling and child friendly spaces.
Iraq – We are working in Iraq to help our Church partners to respond to the urgent needs of families forced from their homes, with food, water and shelter.
How many refugees do regional countries host?
While Turkey hosts almost 3 million Syrian refugees, four other Middle Eastern countries, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt, also share the burden. These five countries are currently home to almost 5 million Syrians, 95 per cent of the total refugee population. Lebanon hosts 1 million refugees, currently; one in every five people in Lebanon is a Syrian refugee. Jordan hosts 650,000 refugees, making up 10 per cent of its population. Iraq hosts around 225,000 refugees, while Egypt is home to around 115,000 refugees.
What’s life like for refugees living in neighbouring countries?
The refugees are living wherever they can find shelter - in make-shift camps, cowsheds, derelict or half-built buildings, even in the open air. Children are often traumatised after seeing their parents killed or homes destroyed in front of them. They urgently need peace and the opportunity to go home and rebuild their lives.
How much has CAFOD’s Syria Crisis Appeal raised?
Since the launch of our Syria Crisis Appeal, the Catholic Community in England and Wales has donated more than £3.5 million, allowing us to continue to work with our partners to deliver emergency aid to tens of thousands of vulnerable Syrian families.
What does CAFOD believe is the solution to this conflict?
In a statement CAFOD’s Syria Crisis Programme Manager said:
“As a member of the UN Security Council as well as the G8 group of leading economies, Britain must not only use all its influence to bring about a political settlement of the conflict, but must ensure that British foreign and domestic policy does not help to prolong it.
“This means that the international community should not set preconditions for peace talks, and those actively engaged in the conflict should not receive political or financial backing.
The UK Government also needs to ensure that Syrians from non-armed groups, including representatives of civil society, faith leaders and community groups, are part of a truly inclusive peace process.”
What can I do to help?
Please join us in praying for refugees around the world
Find out more about the crisis - use our resources for children and young people