Sunday, October 11, 2015

Playing a part in the Syrian refugee crisis


Published: 11 October 2015 10:06 AM

A tent settlement where Syrian refugees live. – Pic courtesy of World Vision Malaysia, October 11, 2015.In the settlements in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. everyone has a story tell – of families separated, daughters kidnapped, sons imprisoned or killed and, the saddest of all, a future lost for them and perhaps their children too.

“Before the war my son used to come here to work at the orchards of the landowner. So we came here when the war broke out," said a refugee Ali.

"The landowner allows us to use this land. Sometimes two or three of us will work in the fields gathering fruits. There is not much work – maybe once in 10 days,” he said.

It is estimated that about US$600 million (RM2.5 billion) is needed each year for the basic needs of refugees and internally displaced persons being hosted in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. As the crisis prolongs, the world’s attention wanes, overtaken by more current events.

According to World Vision Lebanon (WV Lebanon), the World Food Programme used to give out US$30 vouchers to each person per month. This was calculated to be sufficient for a person to buy enough food to get the minimum calories and nutrients to survive each month.

The amount was then reduced to US$19 and then again to US$13.50 up to a maximum of five persons per family. The vouchers are used to purchase basic necessities. With the high cost of living, the amount is insufficient.

World Vision, on the other hand, works to provide water, sanitation and hygiene to the settlements. It has installed latrines and water tanks and is providing sewage desludging services.

The organisation also runs on-site schools to reach out to children who are not attending schools. Work is also being done with parents to emphasise the importance of education for children.

However, insufficient funding and budget cuts are impacting many of the efforts.

Every child has the right to play but for many of these refugee children, play is a makeshift activity. – Pic courtesy of World Vision Malaysia, October 11, 2015.

“We had to stop some of the schools programmes as we didn’t have funding. Currently, more than 70% of school aged Syrian children in Lebanon have no access to education,” said Patricia Mouamar, WV Lebanon communications manager.

For many of the children at the settlements, even their most basic right to play is compromised. Young girls swing from improvised swings hanging from dilapidated structures while boys gather to play football without a ball!

Violence and the use of violence as a form of communication starts young. Used pipes are turned into toy guns and pebbles bullets.

These home-made weapons pack quite a punch as young boys chase each other, re-enacting the fighting they had seen in Syria and declaring that they want to return home to fight.

“Not doing anything is not an option. The situation can be a breeding ground for Isis and other influences,” said Rein Dekker, WV Lebanon national director.

The global refugee and migrant crisis is not going away anytime soon. Given the increasingly borderless nature of the world, it can no longer be seen as a Middle-east or a European problem.

World Vision Malaysia is raising funds to help alleviate the refugee crisis. We urge you to join us in addressing this humanitarian crisis by donating to the Syrian Refugee Crisis. To donate, please visit – October 11, 2015.

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