Today’s World Humanitarian Day shines a light on the thousands of volunteers, professionals and crisis-affected people who are providing urgent medical care, shelter, food, shelter, water and more.
When war broke out in Syria in 2011, I suddenly found myself widowed and cradling my six-month-old son.
Like many others, I thought the war would last a few months and decided to temporarily move from Damascus to Lebanon with my elderly parents.
More than a decade later, many Syrian refugees in Lebanon are struggling to survive — let alone rebuild their lives. The situation for Syrian refugees in camps in Lebanon remains particularly dire.
Last year temperatures in the camp dropped to minus 4 degrees Celsius and I witnessed the devastating effects on families. In one camp, a two-month-old girl died from the cold; in another, a young girl was seriously injured when the water tank in her tent collapsed.
Living in makeshift tarpaulin tents, many Syrian refugees face another harsh winter without fuel or warm clothing.
As a Syrian refugee, it is very difficult for me to see my community suffer. In 2018 I started working with the Lebanese charity Sawa, whose work is supported by the Irish charity Trócaire.
Lebanon remains on the front lines of one of the worst humanitarian crises. The country is home to 1.5 million of the 6.6 million Syrians who have fled the conflict since 2011. The Syrian refugee population in Lebanon remains one of the largest concentrations of refugees per capita in the world.
In addition to the humanitarian context, Lebanon is experiencing a series of intersecting crises on the political, economic and social fronts, aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The capital Beirut is also still recovering from the consequences of the devastating explosion in the port in August 2020.
Lebanon has also been hit by the conflict in Ukraine, affecting the availability and cost of food and fuel. Syrian refugees cannot afford bread, and many have to beg for leftovers outside bakeries or starve. With the cost of living rising, parents can no longer send their children to school – often the only hope for young families.
With the generous support of the Irish people through Irish Aid and Trócaire, Sawa assisted 13,000 people in Lebanon in 2021, 8,000 of whom were Syrian refugees.
We provide humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees in camps, from food to medical treatment to psychological support for families who have experienced trauma.
We also work with Syrian women to empower them to become leaders in their communities. We train and work with these community leaders to give them the skills they need to speak publicly and represent their community.
Many women in the camps have had traumatic experiences fleeing the war. It is therefore important to also offer psychological support.
Once I started working with Trócaire/Sawa and saw the impact on the soil, I couldn’t stop. Despite everything that’s going on, we can support families.
It is something very special that as a Syrian refugee I can support other Syrians.
We all come from the same community, we face the same challenges. Knowing I’m helping families who are really in need makes me very happy because I know firsthand how valuable that support is.
People believe the Syrian conflict is over because they no longer hear about violence and bombing of cities. But while it may not be read in Ireland, it is far from certain.
People cannot return to Syria where there are no hospitals or schools – where your sons could be forced to fight against their will with the military to fight their own people.
That’s why it’s so important not to forget each other. The Irish community has shown great generosity towards Syrians and refugees.
We are very, very grateful for what the Irish people have done for us and for the support we have received through Trocaire.
Hiba Almhammad is Humanitarian Assistance Officer at Trocaire partner Sawa for Development and Relief in Lebanon. See www.trocaire.org
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/syrians-are-struggling-to-survive-after-decade-of-war-41922128.html Syrians are struggling to survive after a decade of war