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Syria crisis: doing all we can

Written by Roger Hearn, Regional Response Team Leader, Save the Children

It’s been two weeks in my new role as Regional Response Team Leader with Save the Children. In that short time I’ve seen some of the suffering caused by the Syria crisis but I’ve also seen the fantastic work of Save the Children in responding to the needs of those affected.

I’d been living in Damascus until a year ago in my role as the director with the UN Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA). I was there with my family before the uprising began and could see first-hand the humanitarian impact that arose as the conflict intensified.

For the past year I’ve been living in Copenhagen and trying to follow events via phone calls with Syrian friends. Being separated from Syria has been really difficult so I’m glad to be back in the region and responding to the crisis.

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Children’s needs

I’m looking at how Save the Children can respond to the current needs of Syrian children caught up in the violence, both inside the country and as refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.

This means making the emergency operation run as smoothly and efficiently as possible to ensure that Syrian children and their families get the support they need the most. It also means looking at how Save the Children can scale-up its response if the crisis worsens.

Given the division in the international community on how best to respond to the situation in Syria, the humanitarian disaster is sadly likely to become even graver.

At Save the Children we’re doing all we can to get ready for more refugees and finding ways of responding directly inside Syria through our work with local communities.

Over the past week I met with families displaced by the crisis. Some were living in camps, others in sub-standard housing, tents, disused barns – anywhere they can find shelter.

Living in a cold, leaking shack

In the Bekaa valley in Lebanon – home to around 79,000 Syrian refugees – it’s incredibly cold.  When I visited last Wednesday, it was snowing in the surrounding mountains.

I met two families renting single-room shacks. It was the first time our team had met with one family of eight living rough in what most of us would consider a leaking shed.

The dwelling was in the middle of a muddy field. In the corner were a few wet blankets and a small suitcase – the only possessions this family had managed to collect before fleeing Syria.

Rain was leaking through the tin roof and the wind was easily finding its way through the poorly constructed breeze blocks.

After a year away from the Middle East I soon remembered the incredible hospitality of people in the region.

A small boy from the family, probably the same age as my own seven-year-old son, noticed that I was cold and offered me his own torn gloves while his mother quickly offered a chair she’d managed to get from a neighbour.

Providing the basics

From this very quick visit it was easy to see the acute needs of children caught up in this crisis:  food, warm clothes, proper shelter, healthcare, and schooling.

After the assessment visit was over, the family were provided with a kit containing essential items to provide some insulation for their dwelling and warm clothes for the family.

Save the Children is looking at how we can provide more support to these and other families in the areas of health, education, child protection, shelter, food security and livelihoods.

I will write more in the coming months about the situation for children caught up in this terrible crisis and the impact of Save the Children’s response to this catastrophe.

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