Mennonite Central Committee is appealing for more funds to help meet basic human needs of Syrians who want to stay near their homes as large numbers leave the Middle East.
For four years, the war in Syria has forced its citizens to live on almost nothing, whether they managed to stay at home or move to safer Syrian towns or neighboring countries.
Having lost family members, houses, jobs and their savings, they piece together a living with sporadic, low-income work and the resources provided by international aid organizations.
Funding shortages are causing large agencies to reduce significantly the support they offer. The United Nations’ World Food Programme stopped distributing food vouchers for 360,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon in September. The value of the vouchers the agency does give has been reduced significantly, and more cuts are expected this fall.
Without those resources from WFP and other organizations, many Syrians face eviction and hunger, which forces them to consider emigrating, said Rashid El Mansi, program manager at Popular Aid for Relief and Development, an MCC partner in Lebanon.
“Their first hope is to go back to Syria, back to the homeland, but actually now they are losing this hope. They are losing their dignity here,” El Mansi said. “They don’t have enough resources, so they think they want to go to the source of these organizations: ‘Let’s go to those people who are helping us.’ ”
El Mansi has met families who tell him that if they could get enough services they would not leave.
Coping with stress
Bruce Guenther, MCC’s director of disaster response, said more donations are needed to carry on MCC’s 27 projects, which provide food, water, rent assistance, cash assistance, education support and trauma care to Syrians and the host communities. These communities also are stressed by the competition for jobs and housing.
“In addition to ongoing needs, we are preparing for winter to assist displaced people from Syria and Iraq,” Guenther said. “Donations for fuel, blankets, food assistance and household items are needed.”
El Mansi said MCC’s resources help people in the projects of Popular Aid for Relief and Development to stay, because they have food. Through PARD, MCC provides food vouchers and preschool education in Beirut. In southern Lebanon, where MCC helped construct permanent housing for refugees, PARD also distributes food vouchers to the most vulnerable refugees.
PARD and other partners also offer trauma care to help children and their parents build resiliency and think through decisions in this stressful situation.
Naomi Enns, an MCC representative for Lebanon and Syria with her husband, Doug, said the work PARD is doing “is holding very, very fragile communities in the south together in peaceful cohabitation.” The Ennses are from Kitchener, Ont.
For some Syrians, resettling elsewhere is the only option. MCC Canada’s refugee coordinators provide support for churches and other groups that want to sponsor refugees to come to Canada. The coordinators assist with applications, welcome the families and help them establish a new life.
MCC U.S. is not directly involved with refugee resettlement but does provide grassroots Immigration Law Training for people who work with resettlement agencies.
MCC’s advocacy offices in Canada and the U.S. encourage citizens to contact their legislators, urging them to provide more humanitarian aid and to allow more Syrians into their countries. Each country has agreed to admit 10,000 Syrians.
Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach, director of the MCC U.S. Washington Office, believes the government must address the cause of the problem.
“The U.S. and others in the international community must also address the root causes of the crisis by ending armed support to various actors in the war and instead put all their energy into finding a negotiated solution,” she said.
See also: “Opening a window of hope amid Syrian war“