view all campaigns
Syria: daily life a struggle to survive Donor pledges must prioritise urgent humanitarian plight of displaced Syrians Iraq: Hairdressing offers hope Jordan: A ray of hope Jordan: an arduous and perilous journey to safety Jordan: caught between memories of the past and the reality of today Jordan: Dreaming a future in a foreign land Jordan: dreaming of an open Syria Jordan: eat dust here or die in Syria Jordan: online education, harnessing the skills of refugees Jordan: refugees helping refugees JRS Middle East Director visits US Lebanon: a cup of tea in the snow Lebanon: before and after displacement, through a Syrian child's eyes Lebanon: Finding home in a new place Lebanon: keeping a special spirit alive Lebanon: language barriers prevent Syrian children from attending school Lebanon: refugee children counting on school Lebanon: Running with friends again Lebanon: School allows students to dream of the future Lebanon: Syrian children need more than a traditional education Lebanon: Syrian families flee to protect their children Lebanon: xenophobia against Syrians in public schools Middle East: protection of Syrian civilians must be world's priority Prayer for Syria: blessed are the peacemakers Six years on, Syrian people share stories of hope for the future Syria: amidst upheaval, the scope of services expands Syria: bread and fuel shortages in Aleppo add to daily woes Syria: bringing families together Syria: cries for peace Syria: dialogue is the solution, not war Syria: displaced Syrians struggle to find shelter Syria: encouraging internally displaced persons to be involved in emergency assistance Syria: enduring spirit remains despite the rubble Syria: examining the role of women from a humanitarian perspective in response to conflict Syria: Finding community at the Alberto Hurtado Centre Syria: holding onto normality in Aleppo Syria: humanitarian situation in the region deteriorating rapidly Syria: in conflict, persecution affects Muslims and Christians alike Syria: Iraqi refugees on the sidelines of yet another conflict Syria: JRS calls for safe passage and security to all civilian population in Aleppo Syria: JRS condemns every form of violence Syria: JRS expands emergency support in Aleppo Syria: JRS serves displaced in Aleppo - UPDATE 20 December 2016 Syria: Laila, art is in her heart Syria: Laila, art is in her heart Syria: Laila, art is in her heart Syria: let this fourth anniversary of the war be the last Syria: local networks of solidarity and JRS helping displaced families Syria: refugee finds his life's purpose at Al Mukhales Centre Syria: resilience and hope Syria: Shattered dreams but embers of hope Syria: thousands displaced after upsurge in violence in Sheikh Maqsoud Syria: turning pain into their most powerful weapon Syria: two years of conflict threaten children's education and well-being Syria: update on JRS emergency assistance SYRIA: Update on situation in Damascus Syria: urgent need for winter supplies Syria: violence in Damascus fuels hopelessness, fear Syria: volunteers are essential to the work of JRS Syria: water, the simplest gift of all Syria: why people flee and why they need protection Syria: work of Jesuit community recognised by German human rights foundation Syria: working under principles of neutrality, non-violence and inclusiveness USA: the Jesuit Refugee Service stands with Syria Voices of Europe unite to help Syrian refugees


A young girl sitting in line at the JRS field kitchen in Damascus
Beirut, 3 October 2014 – The humanitarian crisis in two of the three principle cities in Syria has deteriorated dramatically in the last two months, according to Jesuit Refugee Service teams on the ground.

Damascus. The capital city has suffered from a dramatic increase in violence between rebel and government forces. This has caused waves of displacement from the outlying suburb of Jobar into the suburb of Dwelaa, where JRS centres are based. Security concerns – increases in random gunfire and mortars – have forced staff to close the centres several times in the last month. JRS centres are open at the moment, providing food, remedial education and psychosocial services, but sporadic closures have become the norm.

"The situation in Damascus is very unpredictable at the moment, especially in the areas where we have our centres. We have to take each day as it comes. We do our best to assist those in need, but it is a very precarious situation," said Nawras Sammour SJ, Regional Director of JRS.

Aleppo. Further north near the Turkish border, the inhabitants of Aleppo live in constant fear, caught between various rebel factions, the Islamic Front and government forces. Gas cylinders are the new weapon of choice of rebels. Filled with substances like scrap metal, they are fired into government-controlled civilian areas on the western side of Aleppo city centre, akin to the barrel-bomb used by government forces on civilians in eastern Aleppo. Neither of these weapons have any accuracy and more often than not they land in densely-populated civilian areas, causing severe damage and death.

The population of Aleppo (including suburbs) has dwindled from four million in 2011 to an estimated two million today. However, these two million people are crammed into the western side of the city, which is government-controlled and free from any attack by air. On the eastern side of the city, war is waged on the ground and from the air, leaving people to face almost certain death.

To make matters more dangerous, last week, the US targeted rural areas of Aleppo and the city of Idlib, some 50km away. Many residents fear that ISIS militants will hide among the civilian population, thereby drawing attacks from the US and inflicting further suffering on the local communities.

While residents in the government-controlled areas of Aleppo city centre have access to water from the municipal authorities once a week, those outside these areas have been water-less for nearly seven weeks. In addition, the area has faced continued electricity blackouts. Only those with generators and pumps have access to water outside government-controlled areas; and with fuel shortages causing prices hikes, this number is dwindling quickly.

Homs has been one of the 'quietest' cities in Syria in the last few weeks. However, a double suicide attack on 1 October at an elementary school in the city centre left over 40 children dead and scores injured. The school is located within one kilometre from the JRS Al Moukhales centre, and many people affiliated with the JRS centre send their children to that school.

Speaking to Sami* a JRS volunteer, he said, "it seems so far that no one we know has suffered an injury or death, which is extremely lucky. But we mourn for all those children who were killed; we live each day in fear. When will this violence end?"

JRS has rehabilitated 18 wells in the Old City of Homs to supply clean drinking water to 8,000 people. Teams have also been able to drill a well in the outlying village of Mskaneh, ensuring water for the small population.

Other JRS activities have been operating normally in the area, including serving 700 people a day at a field kitchen in the Old City of Homs and providing educational and psychosocial services.

Other areas of Syria. In the northern Kurdish town of Kobane, thousands of civilians are fleeing towards Turkey fearing the advancement of ISIS militants and the bombing of Kobane by the US. The UN refugee agency is preparing for the displacement of more than 400,000 people towards Turkey. More than 40,000 had fled by 19 September. Sources on the ground believe that people will begin fleeing ISIS-held Raqqa in northern Syria and head towards Hama, a city between Aleppo and Homs.

In Syria, JRS teams provide emergency humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable people. Including: educational and psychosocial activities; food, non-food items and rent support; and basic healthcare services (including a clinic and referrals). In total, an estimate of 300,000 people are helped by JRS in Damascus, Homs and Aleppo.

James Stapleton, JRS International Communications Coordinator
International Communications Coordinator
International Communications Coordinator
Zerene Haddad, JRS Middle East and North Africa