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As the country's infrastructure collapses, JRS finds alternatives by opening mobile schools in tents, Aleppo, Syria (JRS)
International community needs to ensure emergency support reaches the families and children

Beirut, Rome, Washington DC, 15 March 2013 – As the conflict in Syria enters its third year, the protection and well-being of Syrian children continue to be gravely compromised. Despite the best efforts of local and international organisations, the almost total collapse of critical infrastructure is hindering the delivery of key services. The present situation is exacerbated by the lack of sufficient funding for humanitarian assistance. The Jesuit Refugee Service urges the international community to ensure emergency support reaches the families and children most in need.

The education of nearly all Syrian children, comprising nearly half of the population, has been interrupted in some way by the conflict. In addition to suffering from the trauma of war and the shortages of food and basic services, the well-being of young people is further threatened by a lack of access to education. The resulting risks to the well-being of young Syrians have been clearly detailed in the latest UNICEF report.

"The disruption of education has a negative impact on the well-being of children, affecting their self-esteem, social interaction skills and ability to express themselves. The combination of educational and psychosocial support is crucial to helping children cope with loss and trauma", said JRS Middle East and North Africa Director, Nawras Sammour SJ.

As the level of destruction increases, Syrians are forced to flee to other cities and countries. More and more schools and other public buildings are needed as shelters. In the northern city of Aleppo, for instance, only six percent of children are enrolled in the handful of available schools.

The educational and psychosocial support provided to children in Damascus, Homs and Aleppo in the JRS Syria centres and school-shelters clearly illustrate both the benefits of education and the difficulties of providing it during a crisis. In Aleppo, JRS is directly responsible for four school-shelters in which up to 200 displaced families live. Unable to use the buildings for classrooms, JRS has set up tents in school yards, where children attend classes taught by volunteer teachers.

In many cases such emergency services have been the only education Syrian children have received in nearly two years; in places where regular schools continue to function, supplemental support provided by JRS also serves as an important psychosocial cushion for those traumatised by the conflict. 

"The support we provide for children is not only important from an educational perspective, but also because we provide a safe-haven for a few hours a day, taking pressure off parents trying to cope with the realities of conflict. The centres offer routine and stability in the midst of chaos, a place where children can feel safe. In this kind of environment they are able to learn and express themselves better", added Fr Sammour.

For further information contact
  • Zerene Haddad, JRS Middle East and North Africa Communications Officer; tel.: +961 712 73136; middleeast.communications@jrs.net; www.jrsmena.org
  • Mitzi Schroeder, JRS USA Policy Director; tel.: +1 202 629 5941; mschroeder@jesuit.org; www.jrsusa.org
  • James Stapleton, JRS International Communications Coordinator, tel.: +39 346 234 3841; james.stapleton@jrs.net; www.jrs.net
Notes to the editor

JRS has been present in the Middle East since 2008. With projects in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, JRS regionally serves the needs of diverse refugee and asylum seeker communities who come from Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Iran and Syria.

As the region becomes engulfed by the humanitarian crisis arising from Syria's conflict, JRS is responding with emergency relief in the form of blankets, mattresses, winter shoes and clothes, food baskets and hot meals, basic medicine, shelter and educational and psychosocial support. In addition, JRS also provides transport, school-kits, light meals for the children and school materials to some public schools that are struggling to cope under the circumstances.

Across the region, more than 50,000 families have received support from JRS in 2012. Emergency assistance is being conducted in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, whilst normal projects to existing refugee communities continue in Turkey and Jordan.

JRS worldwide

JRS works in more than 50 countries around the world. The organisation employs over 1,200 staff: lay, Jesuits and other religious to meet the education, health, social and other needs of approximately 700,000 refugees and IDPs, more than half of whom are women. Its services are provided to refugees regardless of race, ethnic origin or religious beliefs.