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Avo Kaprealian & Sedki Al Imam

Schools are no longer used for learning; a young girl sits outside at desks that have been removed from the classrooms in order to create more space in the school for people to take refuge from the violence, Aleppo, Syria (Avo Kaprealian & Sedki Al Imam/JRS)
Amman, 12 October 2012 – Like many other places throughout the country, JRS staff and buildings have not been spared from the violence of the conflict. Movement is constrained, goods deliveries are delayed and buildings are destroyed and evacuated. Yet despite these setbacks, JRS and local networks of solidarity have continued to provide emergency support.

The most recent estimates by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) puts the number of Syrians in need of assistance at 2.5 million, with more than 300,000 refugees located in neighbouring countries. It is also estimated that 31,000 people have died as a result of conflict since March 2011.

Aleppo. Last month, the JRS Deir Vartan,  located in disputed territory of Midan, served as a battle ground for rebel and government forces. The field kitchen was relocated to new premises where 10,000 hot meals could be distributed daily to displaced Syrians. Consequently, Deir Vartan is partially destroyed and, for the moment, inaccessible to JRS staff.

According to the OCHA, 600 schools across Syria are being used as shelters. JRS has taken responsibility for five of the 30 in Aleppo, also providing food, non-food items and cash assistance to 4,000 people. However, as winter approaches temperatures will significantly drop and the displaced Syrians without access to shelter leaves cause for concern.

Damascus. A spate of large explosions in recent days has heightened tensions yet again amongst the local population. The academic year has restarted, but according to JRS staff in Damascus, functioning schools are overloaded and transportation costs to and from classes are prohibitive.

In an effort to alleviate this problem, JRS provides nearly 500 children with educational support, cash assistance for transport costs, sports and recreational services. Opportunities for children to create handicrafts, music and art are offered to the students to encourage self-expression and emotional release from the trauma of conflict.

"Our focal point at the moment is activities which support children. They suffer from displacement and disruption, but also from the terrible situation, the events they witness and the trauma in their families when they are not themselves the direct victims", JRS Middle East and North Africa Director, Nawras Sammour SJ.

JRS is coordinating the provision of emergency assistance in the form of food items, household goods, mattresses, cooking utensils and hygiene products to 900 families in Damascus. An additional 1,000 families in the surrounding areas receive indirect support from JRS through Syrian networks of solidarity working to alleviate the crisis.

Homs. The JRS centres in Homs, Al Mukhales and Al Waer, have shifted from summer activities to remedial classes for students in order to adequately serve the needs of children returning to school. Every afternoon for two hours, 800 students receive educational support at the two centres. Fourteen children with disabilities are also participating in a programme specially designed to meet their needs.

Future plans include supporting a school in the Marmarita valley, which lies near the border with Lebanon. The population of this border region has tripled, bringing the percentage of displaced to 75 percent of the total. Consequently, authorities in the area are unable to meet the education needs of displaced children.

Support for 500 families in Homs and surrounding areas is ongoing, with many residents returning home from other places, because nowhere in Syria is free from the scourge of war.

Neighbouring countries. In Jordan, UN refugee agency (UNHCR) estimates there are 200,000 Syrians; the area of greatest need is education. The Jordanian authorities are in need of assistance and resources to meet the needs of Syrians.

In Amman, the JRS informal education project continues to welcome Syrians, and the family-visits team still maintains contact with 200 Syrian families, and provides them with cash and food assistance. The majority of Syrians in Jordan live outside Za'atari refugee camp, where they struggle to meet their daily needs.

Thanks to local coordination with Jesuits in Lebanon, JRS has begun undertaking visits to Syrian refugee families there, looking to see what individualised support can be provided. A more in-depth needs assessment is currently being carried out.

NGOs, including JRS, are still unable to gain access to the camps along the Turkey-Syria border as they are under the sole responsibility of the local Red Crescent.

How can you help? Below is a list of items that people in Syria urgently need as we head towards the harsh winter months. With your financial help, we can alleviate suffering of Syrians.
  • 70 euro: 100 litres of heating oil for winter
  • 80 euro: a basic family kit: one mattress, two sheets, one pillow, two winter-blankets and two towels
  • 100 euro: a food-basket for a five-person family for one month
  • 120 euro: winter clothing for one family (pullover, jacket, trousers, shoes)
  • 160 euro: one month's rent of an apartment for a displaced family
  • 4,000 euro: one day support for the families sheltered in the schools in Aleppo
  • 4,000 euro: cost of providing food for 10,000 people for one day
  • 8,000 euro: the installation cost of the field kitchen
To help support the JRS emergency project, visit https://www.jrs.net/donate