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Children living in a school-shelter in Aleppo participate in games and sports organised by the JRS psychosocial team. Displaced families have been living inside schools that have been converted into shelters since summer 2012. (Jesuit Refugee Service)
JRS advocacy in Syria
Declaration concerning Syria, Conference of European Jesuit Provincials
Washington DC, 8 October 2013 — The Director of Jesuit Refugee Service Middle East and North Africa is visiting the United States to discuss the ongoing JRS response to the crisis in Syria with Jesuit colleagues, and staff from the United Nations agencies and non-governmental organisations.

Nawras Sammour SJ met with the Provincials of the Society of Jesus in the United States yesterday in Chicago, and is in New York today to discuss the crisis with officials of the United Nations.

JRS services in Syria, benefitting some 300,000 people, focus on two fronts: providing emergency relief to those in greatest need and operating educational activities that enhance reconciliation and co-existence amongst people of different socio-economic and faith backgrounds. Currently, the emergency relief consists of food support, provision of hygiene kits, non-food items, basic healthcare, managing shelters and rent support.

As complementary but essential work, educational and psychosocial support is offered to nearly 10,000 children and women. Accompaniment, one of the pillars of JRS work is embodied in family visits, which are at the heart of every JRS project across the region.

In Aleppo, the JRS field kitchen makes up to 16,000 hot meals a day which are then distributed to mosques, school-shelters, public buildings and to other displaced persons who do not have the facilities to cook hot food themselves.

"Our long-term goal is one of reconciliation, and we can already see it happening on a small scale in our projects. We have children from all communities coming together to learn and play side-by-side; and they feel a sense of belonging in our centres and families trust us. Our programmes encourage people to understand their civic responsibilities and become active participants in their communities", said Fr Sammour.

During his visit to the US, Fr Sammour will also visit parishes in Ohio and Pennsylvania. The parishes have been generously supportive of JRS programmes in Syria and with Syrian refugees in surrounding countries.

Fr Sammour will meet with NGOs in Washington DC to discuss areas where they and JRS can collaborate. Additionally, Fr Sammour will attend a conference at The Catholic University of America to discuss the operational and advocacy roles being played by Catholic organisations in response to the crisis in Syria, and to explore the potential for further action, following the call of Pope Francis to "keep alive the hope of peace."

Currently, JRS is one of the few international NGOs on the ground in Syria providing emergency assistance. Thanks to a broad network of local volunteers in Syria, JRS has been able to scale up and improve services to those who are most in need, caught in the crossfire of the violence.

"As our projects expand in Syria, Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon to cope with the crisis, teams remain committed to those refugees in the region who are increasingly forgotten, such as Iraqis, Sudanese and Somalis.

We will continue to provide emergency relief, healthcare, educational and psychosocial services as best as we can and as long as we have the capacity to do so, remain guided by the core humanitarian principles of humanity, independence, impartiality and neutrality and inspired by our core values of compassion, justice, participation, solidarity, hospitality, dignity and hope", said Fr Sammour.

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Example of some of the costs:
  • $92: 100 liters of heating oil (for winter)
  • $105: a basic family kit (one mattress, two sheets, one pillow, two winter-blankets and two towels)
  • $130: a food-basket for a five-person family for one month
  • $160: winter clothing for one family (pullover, jacket, trousers, shoes)
  • $68: one month's rent of an apartment for a displaced family (often families of more than six people all live together in one room)
  • $5.300: one day support for the families sheltered in the schools in Aleppo
  • $11.419: cost of providing food for 2,700 people for one day
  • $45: complete school uniform for a child
  • $11.55: a pair of school shoes, or a school bag, for one child
In the Middle East and North Africa, Jesuit Refugee Service works predominantly with urban refugees. The first projects were initially established in 2008 in response to the high number of Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan. These two countries hosted the majority of Iraqi refugees, who make up the second largest group under UNHCR responsibility worldwide at an estimated 1.8 million.

In 2009 JRS began work in Turkey, both a destination and major crossroads for refugees from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan and Somalia who are hoping to reach Europe or awaiting resettlement.

Since the start of the conflict in March 2011, JRS has adapted and expanded its existing projects in Syria in order to adequately respond to the needs of millions of internally displaced people (IDPs) and the more than one million refugees spilling across Syria's borders into Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.