15 March 2017 – “There is still suffering and much pain - but what keeps us going on is our courage to hope and our continued resilience.” These are the words of Lola Mousa, who originally hails from the countryside near the city of Homs in Syria.
As the conflict in Syria marks its sixth year, the suffering of people there continues with no end in sight. Harsh weather conditions and limited access to basic resources gravely affect displaced families and individuals. Making ends meet is a daily struggle for both the displaced within Syria and those who have fled the country and sought refuge elsewhere. Sizeable sections of them are living in extreme poverty, unable to secure food, water, or medical provisions.
Aleppo today is a case in point. “I have just come back from Aleppo, and I think you should know what is happening there. The city is without water, electricity, fuel, and gas. Hearing about this reality is not the same as living it,” reports a staff member of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Syria.
Delivering humanitarian aid to war-affected populations within Syria is still an urgent issue. There is also the ongoing concern that some neighbouring countries are unable to provide adequate assistance to meet the basic needs of refugees. This lack of assistance threatens the safety of vulnerable people and the stability and security of the region.
“With some of the neighbouring countries having closed their borders to refugees, vulnerable people inside Syria are trapped and unable to flee. Those outside of Syria often face serious difficulties registering as refugees. This lack of protection leaves those Syrians most in need even more at risk,” says Fr Thomas H. Smolich SJ, JRS International Director.
An estimated 13.5 million Syrians need humanitarian assistance, and children make up half of that number. More than six million people are internally displaced within Syria; others have fled to neighbouring countries in the Middle East, including Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq. While many have sought refuge in Europe, Canada and the United States, only a small percentage have actually been welcomed.
With its mission to serve those most in need, JRS was in Syria before the crisis began, working with Iraqis and other refugees there. Despite the challenges, JRS has stayed the course during the six years of conflict. JRS continues to address urgent needs while advocating for and with Syrians, advocating for life with dignity.
In Damascus and Homs, JRS operates education centres in parallel with child protection programs and psychosocial care for children and adults. In Aleppo, JRS teams provide those most vulnerable with emergency humanitarian assistance of food baskets and non-food items. When medical facilities in Aleppo came under ferocious bombardments, JRS continued to provide health services.
In Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and Europe, JRS works with hundreds of refugees who have fled Syria, providing them with emergency assistance as well as ongoing educational and psychosocial support.
In spite of the darkness that this conflict casts over all Syrians, JRS staff and volunteers have experienced many moments of hope. The people we work with continue to kindle hope in the hearts of the Syrian people, those living both inside and outside of the country.
Majeda, a woman from Damascus who fled with her family in search of safety, still holds onto her dream of becoming a lawyer. Kassem is a young man who, in spite of losing a leg in a bomb blast in Syria, wants to become an art teacher one day. JRS accompanies people like Kassem and Majeda so that they can realise their dreams.
Over the next weeks, JRS will share the stories of Majeda, Kassem and other Syrians. We invite you to hear their stories of light overcoming darkness, their testimonies of resilience leading to hope.